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“Apply international law uniformly and not à la carte,” new UN independent expert urges world governments

GENEVA (13 September 2012) – The newly appointed UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, today called on States to move forward to overcome “the many obstacles to the realization of an international order that is more democratic and more equitable.”

“This vision can be achieved by respecting the United Nations Charter as the World Constitution, by applying international law uniformly and not à la carte, by refraining from the threat or the use of force, by promoting a culture of dialogue,” said Mr. de Zayas during the presentation of his first report* to the Human Rights Council. “Civilization is a long journey from exploitation to solidarity,” he emphasized.

The Independent Expert proposed reforms in the international arena, including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, and stressed that “a democratic and equitable international order requires not only international efforts but also enhanced domestic democracy and social justice, a narrowing of the gap between rich and poor in all countries, a strengthening of the rule of law, freedom of expression and an independent judiciary.”

“An international order in which only a few powerful players take all the decisions, often disregarding the consequences for the less powerful, is hardly democratic,” he noted. “An international democratic order is one where all peoples have the opportunity to participate in global decision-making. We must build on the principles of self-determination, sovereignty, and respect for national identities and universal human dignity. Progress in democratization at the domestic level is also necessary to ensure a correlation between the true wishes of the people and the governmental measures, including foreign policy, that affect them.”

With regard to an equitable international order, he emphasized that the riches of the planet must be equitably shared and not controlled by a few countries or cartels. “Fair trade is possible, as are transfer of knowledge and technical cooperation based on mutual benefit. Globalization entails certain dangers but it also opens opportunities for international solidarity,” he said.

Mr. de Zayas also referred to the ravages of the international financial crisis, remarking that “markets are not the private playground of financial bankers, but a public trust that requires transparency and accountability.” In his view, “the financial markets can further an equitable international order if they understand their role as a public responsibility and not as a closed-club of casino economics. Depression and unemployment are the results of irresponsible market activities.”

Among the obstacles to the achievement of a more humanistic international order the expert identifies “the status quo mentality and general inertia, which delay necessary reforms, as well as vested interests and privilege. A change of paradigm, away from short-term predator economics and a rethinking of the values that inspire the whole human rights edifice are necessary. A condition for sustainable change is the practical recognition of the human right to peace and a reordering of priorities away from war and toward disarmament and the realization of the Millennium Development Goals and post-2015.”

Mr. Alfred de Zayas (United States of America) was appointed as the first Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order by the Human Rights Council, effective May 2012. He is currently professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy. Mr. de Zayas practiced corporate law with the New York law firm Simpson Thacher and Bartlett and is a retired member of the New York and Florida Bar. He has been visiting professor of law at numerous universities including the University of British Columbia in Canada, DePaul University in Chicago, the Graduate Institute of the University of Geneva, and the University of Trier (Germany) and he has been board member of several organizations. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IntOrder/Pages/IEInternationalorderIndex.aspx

(*) Check the full report: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session21/A-HRC-21-45_en.pdf

Watch the Independent Expert on OHCHR YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEa6RvDwekQ&feature=share&list=UU3L8u5qG07djPUwWo6VQVLA

For more information and media requests, please contact Pol Planas (tel.: +41 22 9179657/ email: pplanas@ohchr.org) and Thibaut Guillet (tel.: +41 22 9179329/ email: spbconsultant10@ohchr.org) or write to ie-internationalorder@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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