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UN expert calls for concrete protection to support civil society voices, including ‘whistleblowers’

“Protect whistleblowers”

11 September 2013

GENEVA (11 September 2013) – The United Nations Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, urged Governments worldwide to provide concrete and adequate protection to support civil society’s voices and to ensure transparency and accountability in decision-making processes.

“A democratic and equitable international order cannot be achieved as long as civil society actors continue to be subjected to intimidation, harassment and violence, and individuals are denied the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs,” Mr. de Zayas said during the presentation of his second report* to the UN Human Rights Council.

According to the human rights expert, “access to truthful and reliable information from diverse sources, including from free media, both offline and on the Internet, is essential to people so that they can develop their own opinions and effectively take part in the conduct of public affairs.”

“Specific protection must be granted to human rights defenders and whistleblowers who have in some contexts been accused of being unpatriotic, whereas they perform, in reality, a democratic service to their countries and to the enjoyment of human rights of their compatriots,” he stressed.

“I am dismayed that notwithstanding lip service to democracy, too many Governments seem to forget that in a democracy, it is the people who are sovereign,” said the Independent Expert, who analyses in his report a series of obstacles to public participation in global decision-making.

Building on the diagnoses of think tanks, National Human Rights Institutions and other Rapporteurs, Mr. de Zayas deplored that in many countries, Governments are more responsive to special interests than to the wishes of their own populations.

“Little progress can be achieved in correcting glaring social and economic inequities because both in the international and in the domestic level often those who have been elected do not decide and those who do decide have not been elected,” he said. “The disconnect between power and the people must be remedied.”

In particular, the Independent Expert is concerned about the tendency shown in some contexts to follow the interests of the military-industrial complex, those of financial bankers and of transnational corporations, rather than those of their own populations, resulting in domestic and international disorder.

“In this respect, Constitutional Courts also have a critical role to play to watch over the constitutional behaviour of the leaders, and to impeach them in case they act in contravention of their duties,” he said.

In his report, the Independent Expert makes a number of practical and ready-to-implement recommendations aimed at protecting the voices of marginalized groups as well as at enhancing the participation of all individuals in political processes that ultimately have a direct impact on their lives.

“Recent popular movements in different parts of the world show how direct participation in domestic and global decision-making is necessary, and why the instruments of direct democracy including popular initiative and referenda are becoming increasingly attractive,” Mr. de Zayas said.

“Reform of the United Nations system, including the Security Council, of the Bretton Woods Institutions and of the World Trade Organization is necessary to advance toward an international order that is more democratic and more equitable,” he said. In this context he recommends the strengthening of enforcement mechanisms, the establishment of a World Court of Human Rights and a World Parliamentary Assembly.

“A more democratic and equitable international order is no utopia,” the Independent Expert concluded. “It can and will be achieved when governments and civil society work together to make the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations Charter a reality for our and future generations.”

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 and family law in New York and Florida. As a Human Rights Council’s mandate holder, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to:

(*) Check the full report to the UN Human Rights Council:

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