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Comments by Alfred de Zayas, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, following the Interactive Dialogue on the presentation of his thematic report

11 September 2013

I thank States and civil society for constructive criticism, which I pledge to integrate into my thinking in future reports. I will study the written texts of your interventions attentively, taking note of the scepticism expressed by some Delegations about aspects of the resolution creating this mandate. Personally, I am convinced of its added value and I perceive it as a challenge to persuade those who entertain doubts about the mandate that it can and will contribute to a convergence of human rights and a better understanding of their universality, coherently with enhanced respect for diversity and cultural differences.

With respect to concerns expressed by some Delegations, including those of India, Morocco and Serbia on the issue of self-determination, I recall the generous language of resolutions 18/6 and 21/9, which refer in the respective preambles and operative paragraph 6(a) to the core value of self-determination. This right is anchored in the UN Charter and common article 1 of the ICCPR and ICESR. Its implementation is a matter of gradual recognition of its justification as an element of peace and stability.

The distinguished Representative of Palestine highlighted the importance of the universality of the UPR process. Indeed, all here present will agree that one of the great achievements of the Council is precisely the acceptance of peer review by all States and the benefits that all derive from this dialogue. An international democratic order needs the UPR. She also asked how the voice of civil society can be strengthened. Personally I am optimistic that the existence of so many committed women and men and the constructive reports and activities of non-governmental organizations are helping governments find solutions to concrete human rights problems. Such participation must be without discrimination or manipulation. Indeed, the lack of respect of the will of the people frequently leads to social unrest and revolution. In my report I propose that more space be given to civil society – in particular through a resolution of the General Assembly on the modalities of civil society participation and the granting of consultative status to genuine ngo’s. In this connection I should like to endorse calls for greater participation by women, minorities, indigenous and non-represented peoples.

Cuba has reminded me that the resolutions call for a focus on the international dimension of the mandate. In paragraphs 55(a)(b)and(c) of the report I formulate recommendations concerning international democracy and how to advance in the implementation of this part of the mandate. In future reports I intend to tackle several of these issues, including proposals to reform the Security Council, so as to expand its membership and give all States, large and small, greater democratic participation in global decision making. Reform is a condition of stability.

I would also like to look at prior practice and realistic possibilities of revitalizing the General Assembly so that it henceforth exercises a greater role in international decision-making. It is evident that when the Security Council finds itself in grid-lock, the General Assembly, as the most representative world body, should take on the challenge and help the Security Council bridge the impasse. The General Assembly should devise means of assisting countries in implementing international law obligations and, when necessary, recommend or impose sanctions, a domain hitherto reserved to the Security Council. The Assembly could also take a more active role in obtaining clarification of disputed international legal issues by submitting them to the International Court of Justice for advisory opinions.

In order to achieve a more equitable international order, it appears sensible to look into the possibility of demanding greater transparency and accountability from world financial and trade institutions, for instance by placing the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the WTO under the authority of the United Nations, subordinating them to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, pursuant to articles 57 and 63 of the Charter. Moreover, the Council could look at the possibility of expanding the UPR process to include review of these bodies.

Finally, a study on peace as a condition to a democratic and equitable international order, and the need for multilateralism in global decision-making would advance the implementation of the mandate.

Mr. President, distinguished Delegates

I note that many concerns expressed were not related to my report, but to the resolution establishing the mandate. I understand this lack of consensus amongst Member States, but I frankly believe that if we all make the effort to think outside the box, we will realize that most of the recommendations I am offering to the Council have, in one way or another, also been proposed by other mandate holders, including the Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, on the rights of indigenous peoples or the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice. I feel encouraged by the positive comments expressed by representatives of civil society. Given that the topic of my report was participation, I was eager to receive the feedback from civil society actors. As a result, I consider these comments as evidence that I am going in the right direction.

I am aware that not all States will agree with the menu of recommendations I proposed, but one thing I can assure you of, and that is my commitment and my independence. Indeed, the essence of being an independent expert is not only the expertise, which must be a given and is conscientiously assessed by this Council before appointing rapporteurs, but the capacity to carry out the mandate free of intimidation or interference, free of thinking barriers, or of political correctness.

An independent expert would fail the mandate and the Council if he or she were to rehash existing wisdoms and engage in rhetoric that only confirms the status quo.

The essence of the independent expert is his independence to think outside systems, beyond prejudices, and to make bold proposals that the Council may act upon as appropriate.

I thank you for entrusting me with this important mandate.