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International cooperation is the core of international solidarity, but that international solidarity is not limited to international assistance and cooperation, aid, charity or humanitarian assistance. International solidarity should be understood in a broader concept that includes sustainability in international relations, especially international economic relations, the peaceful coexistence of all members of the international community, equal partnerships and the equitable sharing of benefits and burdens, refraining from doing harm or posing obstacles to the greater wellbeing of others, including in the international economic system and to our common ecological habitat, for which all are responsible.

In his report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/15/32, July 2010), former independent expert Rudi Muhammad concluded that international solidarity is a precondition to human dignity, the basis of all human rights, and a human-centred approach to development, and has a bridge-building function across all divides and distinctions. It encompasses the values of social justice and equity; goodwill among peoples and nations, and integrity of the international community; sovereignty and sovereign equality of all States, and friendly relations among them. He stressed selected areas of focus and emerging areas in which international solidarity should take a more central role including in Sustainable Development, Financing for Development, and South-South Cooperation.

The Independent Expert called for a preventive solidarity owing to the magnitude of global and local challenges, the alarming increase of natural and man-made disasters, and the continuing rises in poverty and inequality. This call was later reinforced by his successor, Ms. Virginia Dandan, in her statement to the Durban’ United Nations Conference on Climate Change calling for greater cooperation and solidarity in order to face the challenges posed by climate change such as the intensification and increasing frequency of natural disasters, as well as the continuing and widening poverty gap, the series of food, energy, economic and financial global crises.

In her first statement to the Human Rights Council, Ms. Dandan pointed out that the notion of solidarity has defined the work of the United Nations since its inception, drawing together nations and peoples to promote peace and security, human rights and development. She also stressed that the Millennium Declaration identified international solidarity as one of the fundamental values indispensable to international relations in the 21st century.

Ms. Dandan’s view of solidarity is that it “...far exceeds the sense of a common bond that is rightfully synonymous with solidarity. Solidarity is a persuasion that combines differences and opposites, holds them together into one heterogeneous whole, and nurtures it with the universal values of human rights. International solidarity therefore does not seek to homogenize but rather, to be the bridge across those differences and opposites, connecting to each other diverse peoples and countries with their heterogeneous interests, in mutually respectful, beneficial and reciprocal relations, imbued with the principles of human rights, equity and justice”.

Ms. Dandan also stated that threats to peace and security, poverty, water scarcity, population pressure, the adverse social and economic effects of globalization including its impact on labour and migration, as well as the misuse of natural resources that is closely linked to increasing social conflict, marginalization and poverty, are but some of the most serious constraints to a sustainable future during this century. These grim realities reinforce the argument for the elaboration of the right to international solidarity, and for judiciously moving forward without further delay, to reach an agreement on its contours, configuration and substance, as will be articulated in a draft declaration on the right of peoples and individuals to international solidarity.

Future focus for the Independent Expert for International Solidarity

With the appointment of the current mandate-holder in 2017, Mr. Obiora C. Okafor announced that he would continue building on the work of previous mandate holders and in line with the relevant resolutions, and outlined the main goals and objectives he sought to achieved to include the following:

  • Building greater consensus on the theme of the mandate among States and other stakeholders, including by showing how greater enjoyment of human rights-based international solidarity would most likely benefit all States and all peoples in every region of the world;
  • More effort to demonstrate the deep interconnections between human rights-based international solidarity and many key international relations issues, and showing even more robustly how the enjoyment of such solidarity is central to the effective management of many such issues of great global concern;
  • Identifying, mapping, accounting for and analysing any State practice and opinio juris that may exist (or may have existed) in relation to the right to international solidarity that is contained in the draft declaration;
  • Deepening communication with States, civil society and other stakeholders on the mandate and on the draft declaration on the right to international solidarity.

The Independent Expert also announced that he will look to focus on several thematic priorities, such as:

  • global migration and international solidarity;
  • refugees and international solidarity;
  • climate change and international solidarity;
  • the threat of populism to the principle of international solidarity;
  • extraterritorial human rights obligations and international solidarity;
  • the role of civil society and international solidarity; global citizenship and international solidarity;
  • South-South cooperation as international solidarity;
  • technology and innovation and international solidarity;
  • cities and local governments as agents of international solidarity;
  • taxation and international solidarity and international solidarity and economic security.