Why a ‘Right’ to ‘Peace’?
By: Niloufar Omidi
A close scrutiny of the moral and philosophical schools of thought and also the main world religions reveals that they all have tried to establish a lifestyle based on non-violence and communal living. The struggle for peace has been the awakening point to claim for fundamental rights and freedoms, for instance the modern framework of human rights emerged following the Second World War tragedy. Thus, It is undeniable that peace has played a crucial role to provide a sound groundwork for the realisation of human rights in all eras. This idea is confirmed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR-1948). Accordingly, peace is a necessary order for the full enjoyment of human rights (Article 28) and individuals subjected to violence, oppression and war cannot completely enjoy all dimensions of human rights.(1)
Although ‘Peace’ has been undoubtedly the main concern of human rights law; there are reluctances and debates to recognise the ‘right to peace’ as human rights. An overview of the literature clarifies that there are different discretions about the existence and nature of the ‘peoples’ right to peace’. Additionally, there is no consensus among experts whether the ‘right to peace’ exists as a legal standard or is an emerging right or symbolizes quite an ambition instead of a human right.(2)
The current world crises such as Syria civil war and the terrorist activities of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) demonstrate that a vast part of the global population live in fear of war and terrorism. It shows that peace has been remained at the level of a value. In other words, it is respected, however, nobody can claim for peace as a right upon the society. As a result, it canot be realised. Now, considering the insufficiency of the existing deterrence measures to provide peoples with peace and freedom from fear, it is highly demanded to find a way to equip peoples to live in peace. To this end, a crucial step can be the recognition of a right for peoples to peace. In this regard, the recent statement of Professor Alfred de Zayas, the Independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, on the occasion of international day of peace (2015) is noteworthy. He urges the Human Rights Council to continue its work toward the adoption of a Declaration on the Right to Peace in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He requests the Human Rights Council to listen to the demand of hundreds of civil society organizations regarding the importance of the right to peace.
Therefore, an efficient mechanism to break the current world deadlock over the existing violence is the empowerment of peace to reach to the threshold of a right.
1- A/68/284. General Assembly. Distr.: General. 7 August 2013. Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives; Promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.Para.6. www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/IntOrder/A-68-284_en.pdf
2- doc.A/HRC/14/38 U, Report of the Office of the High Commissioner on the outcome of the expert workshop on the right of peoples to peace (2010)
The open-ended intergovernmental working group on the right to peace
At its twentieth session, the Human Rights Council took note of the draft declaration prepared by the Advisory Committee (A/HRC/20/31) and decided to establish an open-ended intergovernmental working group with the mandate of progressively negotiating a draft United Nations declaration on the right to peace, on the basis of the draft submitted by the Advisory Committee, and without prejudging relevant past, present and future views and proposals (resolution 20/15).
The first session of the working group will take place from 18-21 February 2013. Ms. Zulficar, as a chairperson of the Advisory Committee drafting group on the draft declaration, will participate in the working group’s session.
In its resolution 14/3, the Human Rights Council requested to the Advisory Committee to prepare a report on the draft declaration on the right of peoples to peace. At its sixth session, the Committee adopted a progress report for submission to and consideration by the Human Rights Council at its seventeenth session (A/HRC/17/39) and A/HRC/17/39/Corr.1.
In its resolution 8/9, the Human Rights Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene, before April 2009, a workshop on the right of peoples to peace with the participation of two experts from countries of each of the five regional groups and to report on the outcome of the workshop to the Council at its eleventh session, to be held in June 2009. The workshop took place on 15 – 16 December 2009 in Geneva.
In its resolution 14/3, the Human Rights Council (HRC) took note with satisfaction of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the outcome of the workshop on the right of peoples to peace (A/HRC/14/38), and further requested the Advisory Committee, in consultation with Member States, civil society, academia and all relevant stakeholders, to prepare a draft declaration on the right of peoples to peace, and to report on the progress thereon to the Council at its seventeenth session.
At its fifth session (A/HRC/AC/5/3), the Advisory Committee adopted recommendation 5/2, in which it designated Ms. Chung, Mr. d’Escoto Brockmann, Mr. Heinz (Rapporteur) and Ms. Zulficar (Chairperson) as members of a drafting group entrusted to submit a draft progress report on the draft declaration on the right of peoples to peace at its sixth session., the drafting group was also requested to prepare a questionnaire to consult with Member States, civil society, academia and all relevant stakeholders, to be distributed after the discussion at the sixth session of the Committee.
Moreover, the drafting group of the Advisory Committee on the right of peoples to peace has prepared a questionnaire to facilitate consultations with Member States, civil society, academia and all relevant stakeholders on this research matter.
At its seventh session (A/HRC/AC/7/3) and then at its eight session (A/HRC/AC/8/4), the Advisory Committee requested the drafting group to finalize work on the draft declaration on the right of peoples to peace in the light of discussions held by the Advisory Committee at its 7th and 8th sessions, and to submit it to the Human Rights Council at its 20th session.
A/HRC/RES/20/15; Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council-20/15.Promotion of the right to Peace,17 July 2012, PDF:G1216163
A/HRC/17/39; Progress report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the right of peoples to peace,1 April 2011, PDF:G1112390
A/HRC/17/39/Corr.1, Progress report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the right of peoples to peace (Corrigendum), PDF:G1112546