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Statements Special Procedures

Concluding Remarks of the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order

14 September 2017

36th Session of the Human Rights Council

Thursday, 14 September 2017

I sincerely thank the Human Rights Council for creating this beautiful mandate on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, a timely rapporteurship that demonstrates the inter-relatedness and inter-dependence of human rights, the natural convergence of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. By joining the dots, this hands-on mandate elucidates the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations and formulates pragmatic recommendations how best to advance toward a more peaceful, democratic and equitable international order.  The added value of this mandate that some initially considered elusive has been proven.

Over the years I have identified many obstacles to a gentler international order, including philosophies of materialism and mercantilism that exclude human dignity from the equation, trade asymmetries, economic neo-colonialism, vulture funds, commodities speculation, destructive competition, sanctions that hurt the most vulnerable, private credit rating agencies with political agendas -- obstacles that threaten the enjoyment of many human rights and hinder progress toward the achievement of the sustainable development goals.  My successor will have a full plate and a formidable challenge.


Unilateralism has always hindered the building of a just world order. Militarism and the arms race not only destroy lives but also destroy our faith in the sanity of mankind. What we need is disarmament for development, a stop to sabre rattling and war-mongering, a genuine commitment to dialogue.

Enforced “regime change” through foreign intervention is not only a gross violation of international law and international order, but also a gross denial of democracy and self-determination, leading to chaos and in some cases generating crimes against humanity. I devoted my 2014 report to this Council to the need to convert military budgets into peace-building and social budgets.  It is obscene that in some countries there has been a surge in military spending, consuming 40 percent and more of the budget, while expenditures for education, health care, housing and infrastructure are reduced. 

I urged this Council to recognize peace as a human right with individual and collective dimensions. Whereas some delegations questioned the legal basis of the right to peace, my reports proved that most constitutive elements of the right to peace were already hard-law, as laid down in the UN Charter, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Obstacles to achieving a democratic and equitable international order also include selectivity in the application of human rights and international law, which in many fora are invoked inconsistently, à la carte.  Observers have deplored the corruption of language, often reduced to slogans, the hijacking of good initiatives by mercenaries of human rights. In some sectors, what some have called a “human rights industry” has emerged to serve as a fig leaf for the status quo, for “business as usual”.

We must recapture the spirituality of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The vital equation must integrate empathy, mutual respect, reconciliation, greater participation at all levels of civil society, the private sector, inter-governmental organizations and international financial institutions.

Let us return to the vision of Eleanor Roosevelt, René Cassin and Charles Malik. Let us build on international solidarity and formulate – together -- a new functional paradigm of human rights.  Let us demonstrate our commitment to the rule of law by strengthening the regional courts guided by a global bill of rights with a margin of appreciation, a new global bill of rights enforceable both in domestic courts and before a World Court of Human Rights. International order must henceforth mean justice and human rights through law.

For indeed,

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew V,9)

I thank you.

Alfred de Zayas