Consultation on The Human Right to Peace
NGO organizations who have either supported or wish to support The Santiago Declaration on the Human Right to Peace (December 2010), were invited to a consultation meeting in New York on March 22 to receive up-to-date information on the advancement of the declaration and to provide feedback on it. The meeting was timed to coincide with a similar meeting held in Geneva.
The Santiago Declaration has been 10 years in the making, primarily spearheaded by the Spanish Society for International Human Rights Law (SSHIRL). Professor Carlos Villan Duran, president of SSIHRL, provided an insight into the necessity for this instrument. He noted the following:
- More than 900 NGOs worldwide have signed up in support of the Declaration
- We need to get rid of war and not “weaponize” peace
- Civil society wields considerable power and we want peace (vs. government policy)
- Peace, human rights and development were the basis of the UN Charter and International Law
- There is no recognition of peace as a human right that could/should enable us to claim peace.
Duran further elaborated on what he called “three aspects of good news regarding peace” and efforts to ensure that a Universal Declaration of the Human Right to Peace is achieved.
- Civil Society, rather than UN Member States, drafted the international instrument on the human right to peace, articulating the text through the use of international law. Peace as a human right can be understood as the absence of violence (armed conflict, structural violence, and cultural violence).
- A second document, the Statutes of the International Observatory of the Human Right to Peace (IOHRP), was also adopted by the 900 civil society NGOs. IOHRP will “promote the Santiago Declaration and disseminate its principles and norms throughout the world” and “ensure that the process of international codification of the human right to peace, already initiated by the Human Rights Council and its Advisory Committee, is fulfilled with the approval of the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of the Human Right to Peace, which shall take into account the Santiago Declaration and its preparatory work.”
- It is a significant and important achievement to get Member Nations on the Human Rights Council to both acknowledge and pursue the move by Civil Society and NGOs regarding the advancement of a draft instrument (Santiago Declaration), aspects of which will be incorporated into the Human Rights Council’s final declaration.
Duran commented that the Santiago Declaration is seen as complementing the Universal Declaration on Human Rights by adding something very specific concerning the right to peace. Given that the UDHR was written in 1945 by the victors of WWII, and 66 years have elapsed, we need to re-read the UDHR with a new vision of peace.
Cora Weiss, president of the Hague Appeal for Peace, a key NGO supporter of the human right to peace and the Santiago Declaration, noted that the “revolutionary atmosphere taking place at this time particularly in the Middle East” demonstrates that civil society globally wants to live in peace and will act to free itself from violence, particularly where it is perpetrated by the regimes of despotic dictators. Civil society must continue, or in some countries begin, to “make our own peace and hope that governments will catch on” and implement peace. Action is important and is contagious! Weiss believes that the Santiago Declaration provides a “more holistic and far-reaching definition of peace” than any other document produced internationally, and that it is a declaration “for the survival of humanity.”
Jacqui Ryan, OP (New Zealand)
Margaret Mayce, OP (DLC/Amityville)
NGO in Special Consultative Status at the United Nations
Dominican Leadership Conference
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