Have your say for peace – UN expert urges NGOs to take active role in global disarmament


For the International Day of Peace – Sunday 21 September 2014

GENEVA (19 September 2014) – The United Nations Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, Alfred de Zayas, calls on civil society organizations to take an active role in a special forum to be convened by the UN Conference on Disarmament, to be held in Geneva later this year.

On the occasion of the International Day of Peace, Mr. de Zayas urges NGOs to take advantage of this opportunity to propose concrete strategies for conversion from military-first to peaceful economies and to demand greater transparency from governments in the determination of budget priorities and a significant reduction of military expenditures.

“Peace, as a condition to the full enjoyment of all human rights, is much too important to be left to politicians. Hence, public participation in decision-making must be strengthened so that a truly democratic and equitable international order can emerge.  Civil society demands not only the absence of war but also the creation of an environment conducive to international peace and solidarity.

Today, on International Day of Peace 2014, I call upon civil society organizations around the world to take an active role in bringing about a meaningful transformation in their own countries, downsizing the military and reorienting budgets towards education, health care, the creation of employment in peaceful industries and reinforcing of the rule of law and administration of justice.

An invigorated civil society expects from governments more than just lip service to peace, and demands concrete actions including disarmament, close regulation and meaningful reduction of the arms trade.

Parliaments have a key role in promoting disarmament for development and monitoring the observance of disarmament commitments by States, in particular pursuant to article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Nuclear arsenals must be reduced and verification procedures for effective nuclear disarmament must be enforced. As long as huge nuclear stockpiles exist, the threat of nuclear conflagration will persist, whether caused by aggression or by a technological glitch. This man-made danger must be recognized and removed.

Concrete recommendations for disarmament and development can be found in my latest report* to the UN Human Rights Council, which proposes streamlining these initiatives within the entire UN system.

Peace is a continuing joint venture, with each agency expected to contribute to this goal within its area of competence and to cooperate with each other without sterile turf competition. The Human Rights Council is a key venue to advance peace as a human right and should henceforth mainstream peace into its work, integrating disarmament for development into the long-term strategy of the Universal Periodic Review.

The UN General Assembly should create a de-escalation committee with the task of silencing the drums of war, using diplomacy rather than menaces. A committee tasked with abating tensions and focusing on conflict prevention would be a real step toward people-centred international order and the widespread enjoyment of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.

History shows that governments have again and again stumbled into wars by the dynamic of escalating rhetoric.  It is a noble function of the noblest international organization to facilitate peaceful negotiation and assist politicians to withdraw from belligerency, bearing in mind that war-mongering is contrary to article 2(4) of the UN Charter and article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

We must simultaneously address specific threats and breaches of the peace while devising durable solutions to the root causes of conflict and strengthening existing mechanisms to maintain local, regional and world peace.

The theme of this year’s International Day of Peace is the ‘Right of Peoples to Peace’. The Human Rights Council is currently discussing a draft declaration on the right to peace aimed at achieving a UN Declaration on the right to peace, which should go beyond prior UN declarations and establish an appropriate monitoring mechanism.

(*) See the full report to the UN Human Rights Council: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IntOrder/Pages/IEInternationalorderIndex.aspx