International Day of Peace(2016): Peace is a Human Right with individual and collective dimensions

Statement by the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas

International Day of Peace:  Peace is a Human Right with individual and collective dimensions

On the occasion of international day of peace 2016, the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, urges the Human Rights Council to take action to follow up on the call of civil society worldwide requesting it to complete its work on the human right to peace and go beyond the bland Declaration on the right to peace adopted last June 2016 through Human Rights Council Resolution 32/28.

“Human Rights Council Resolution 32/28 adopted in June 2016 is but a timid beginning of the formulation of the human right to peace.  Hundreds of civil society organizations have been demanding for years the adoption of a substantive declaration that will pave the way to a General Assembly Resolution that will explicitly define peace as a human right with individual and collective dimensions and enumerate the many other human rights that are at play, including the right to life and security of person, the right to conscientious objection to military service, and the prohibition of propaganda for war. Unfortunately, the final wording of the declaration adopted last June fails to meet its noble objective. It fails to reflect the draft presented by the Council’s own Advisory Committee and does not meet the expectations of civil society.

I regret the retrogression manifested in three sessions of the inter-governmental working work in charge of preparing the declaration on the right to peace, which did not even reach consensus, notwithstanding the fact that peace and human rights are at the core of the UN Charter and that the UN Covenants, to which most UN Member States are party, and subsequent jurisprudence already formulate the legal basis of Peace as a human right. The working group missed the opportunity to reaffirm the multiple aspects of Peace – not only as the absence of war, but as a human right in itself, going beyond General Assembly resolution 39/11 of 12 November 1984, on the right of peoples to peace, which already stipulates “the preservation of the right of peoples to peace and the promotion of its implementation constitute a fundamental obligation of each State,” but which fails to recognize peace not only as a collective right of peoples, but as a right of individuals to be free of structural violence.  Moreover, Peace must be seen as an enabling right and condition to the enjoyment of all other rights. The Human Rights Council is the preeminent venue to discuss its many dimensions.

As elucidated in my prior reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, most of the components of the human right to peace are already justiciable under the individual complaint procedures of the UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[1] Two general comments of the Human Rights Committee on the right of life call for total nuclear disarmament as the only way to save humanity from eventual destruction.  The report of the 2009 UN workshop on the right to peace, the Advisory Committee’s draft declaration of 2014 and the civil society Declaration of Santiago of 10 December 2010 outlined the multifaceted elements of the human right to peace, focusing on the absence of structural violence not just a lack of armed conflict.

My 2014 report to the Council calls for comprehensive disarmament for development and documents the immense waste of resources currently being sunk in weapons procurement, as well as modernization and stockpiling of military hardware, maintenance of military bases worldwide and research conducted into the development of new weapons of mass destruction and lethal autonomous weapon systems. The funds released by slashing military budgets would then be available for implementing human rights treaty obligations, particularly in the field of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.

I call on all States to review their genuine “security” needs and to gradually shift from a war and bravado economy to a peace and international solidarity economy.  Only thus will they be able to meet the commitments made on the 2030 Development Agenda and COP21.  We owe it to succeeding generations to make peace a reality for humankind.

On international day of peace States should focus on resolving the root causes of local, regional and international conflict, often emerging from great injustices and inequalities prevailing in the world, the race for natural resources, the asymmetries of trade relations, and the impact of climate change. Much more effort must be devoted to conflict-prevention and the creation of infrastructures that will ensure sustainable peace and development.”

[1] See A/HRC/27/51

6 December 2015 The White House-Washington

Tonight, I addressed the nation from the Oval Office on my top priority as President: Keeping the American people safe.
It weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of all of us in the wake of the terrible tragedy in San Bernardino. Fourteen Americans — dads, moms, daughters, sons — were taken from us as they came together to celebrate the holidays: Each of them a public servant, All of them a part of our American family.
The FBI is still gathering the facts about what happened in San Bernardino, but here is what we know. We have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas, or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home. But it is clear that these killers had embraced a perversion of Islam, stockpiled assault weapons, and committed an act of terrorism.
Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11. Since then, we’ve hardened our defences. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies have disrupted countless plots and worked around the clock to keep us safe. Our military and counter-terrorism professionals have relentlessly pursued terrorist networks overseas — disrupting safe havens, killing Osama bin Laden, and decimating al Qaeda’s leadership.
But over the last few years, the threat has evolved as terrorists have turned to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all-too common in our society. For the past seven years, I have confronted the evolution of this threat each morning. Your security is my greatest responsibility. And I know that, after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.
So, tonight, this is what I want you to know: The threat of terrorism is real, but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us. Here’s how:
First, our military will continue to hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary, using air strikes to take out ISIL leaders and their infrastructure in Iraq and Syria. And since the attacks in Paris, our closest allies – France, Germany, and the United Kingdom – have ramped up their contributions to our military campaign, which will help us accelerate our effort to destroy ISIL.
Second, we will continue to provide training and equipment to Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground so that we take away their safe havens. In both countries, we are deploying Special Operations forces who can accelerate that offensive.
Third, we are leading a coalition of 65 countries to stop ISIL’s operations by disrupting plots, cutting off their financing, and preventing them from recruiting more fighters.
Fourth, with American leadership, the international community has established a process and timeline to pursue cease-fires and a political resolution to the Syrian civil war. Doing so will allow the Syrian people and every country to focus on the common goal of destroying ISIL.
That is our strategy — designed and supported by military commanders, counter-terrorism experts, and countries committed to defeating these terrorists. And we constantly examine further steps needed to get the job done. That is why I have ordered the Departments of State and Homeland Security to review the visa program under which the female terrorist in San Bernardino originally came to this country. And that is why I will urge high tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice.
Here at home, we can do more together to immediately address this challenge.
To start, Congress should act to make sure that no one on a No Fly List is able to buy a gun. What possible argument can be made for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security. I know there are some who reject any gun safety measure, but no matter how effective our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, we cannot identify every would-be mass shooter. What we can do, and must do, is make it harder for them to kill.
Next, we should put in place stronger screening for those who come to America without a visa so that we can know if they’ve travelled to war zones. And finally, if Congress believes, as I do, that we are at war with ISIL, then it should vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists.
This is what we should do. But I’d like to also say a word about what we should not do.
We should not be drawn once again into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria. That’s what groups like ISIL want. We also cannot turn against one another by letting this fight become a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want. ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, and account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world who reject their hateful ideology.
If we are to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as our strongest allies in rooting out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization. It is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It is our responsibility to reject language that encourages suspicion or hate. Because that kind of divisiveness that betrayal of our values, plays into the hands of groups like ISIL. We have to remember that.
I am confident America will succeed in this mission because we are on the right side of history. Even as we debate our differences, let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional: We were founded upon a belief in human dignity — the idea that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.
Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear. That we have always met challenges — whether war or depression; natural disasters or terrorist attacks — by coming together around our common ideals. As long as we stay true to who we are, then I have no doubt that America will prevail.
Thank you,
President Barack Obama

Statement on the occasion of International Day of Peace, 21/09/2015

Geneva – 21 September 2015: On the occasion of international day of peace the Independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order urges the Human Rights Council to continue its work toward the adoption of a Declaration on the Right to Peace in its individual and collective dimensions in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“The Human Rights Council must listen to the demand of hundreds of civil society organizations that the fruitful work of the UN workshop on the right to peace and the Advisory Committee’s draft declaration be continued by the extension of the mandate of the inter-governmental working work on the right to peace. Civil society should be given greater opportunity to participate in the elaboration of this instrument in its holistic meaning, not limited to security issues which are the primary competence of the Security Council, but encompassing all human rights impacts.

I deplore the continued sabre-rattling by some States, in contravention of article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which specifically prohibits propaganda for war, the continued arms race characterized by increasing military spending, provocative military exercises and the holding of huge fairs where the merchants of death expose their wares intended to strengthen the logic of war and of sustained militarism.

On the other hand, there are some reasons for optimism, including the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty or the successful completion of a compromise agreement on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, consistent with the obligation of all States to settle disputes by peaceful means pursuant to article 2(3) of the UN Charter.  The reduction of tension and the lifting of sanction will promote peaceful exchanges in the region and positively impact the international order.

Disarmament is the key to development. In a world where millions of human beings die of famine and disease, it is shocking that high percentages of national budgets are still being consumed by the military — not only through procurement of weapons, but through the unconscionable waste of resources by directing research capacities into the production of lethal autonomous weapon systems (killer robots) and other horrible new weapons. I urge all States and concerned parties to implement the pragmatic recommendations I have formulated in my 2014 report to the Human Rights Council on military spending and human rights. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will only be achieved when and if States stop the arms race and jointly agree to gradually eliminate the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.

On international day of peace States should focus on resolving the root causes of local, regional and international conflict, which follow the great injustices and inequalities prevailing in the world, the race for natural resources, the asymmetries of trade relations, and the impact of climate change. Much more effort must be devoted to conflict-prevention and the creation of infrastructures that will ensure sustainable development.”

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