COMMEMORATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE
A commemoration of the international day of peace was held on 19 September 2008 in the Council Chamber of the Palais de Nations (Geneva), hosted by the Non-governmental Liaison Office of the United Nations at Geneva and the Spanish Society for International Human Rights Law (SSIHRL). It was the first time in the history of the Geneva United Nations Office that this day was officially observed.
The successful and well-attended ceremony commenced with a musical overture performed by an excellent ensemble of musicians composed of UN civil servants. Following this performance the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon (on video from New York) pronounced his official message to the world on the occasion of the International Day of Peace. He concluded his speech by making a vibrant appeal to the leaders and peoples of the world to join forces against war, poverty and hunger, and for the realization of all human rights by all human beings on the planet.
This commemoration was chaired by H. E. Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva. The speakers were H. E. Mr. Laurent Moutinot, President of the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, Mr. Kari Tapiola, Executive Director for Standards and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of the International Labour Office, Mr. Ibrahim Wani, Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch, and Acting Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Carlos Villan Duran, President of the Spanish Society for International Human Rights Law, Ms. Monique Prindezis, President of the World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace, and Mr. Pascal Gemperli, of the Institute for Integrative Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding.
Upon the conclusion of the official part of the commemoration, the film “The day after peace” was screened in the Council Chamber. This movie charts the long journey of Jeremy Gilley, director of the Foundation Peace One Day, toward the adoption of a resolution by the 2001 General Assembly declaring 21 September as a day of total cease-fire in the world.
In the line of the statement made by the Secretary General, the Director General of UNOG delivered thoughtful remarks, linking peace and social justice. He highlighted the challenges of the current world, such as disarmament, peace, security, development and human rights. He finished his speech asserting that peace is possible.
The President of the State of the Canton of Geneva recalled that this city has been closely linked to the cause of peace throughout its history. He reaffirmed Switzerland’s commitment to support the UN in the promotion of disarmament, justice among peoples and the renunciation of armed force.
Both representatives of ILO and the OHCHR reviewed the contribution of their respective organizations to the cause of peace. The President of the World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace recalled the obligations of States in the field of education on peace and human rights. And the representative of the Institute for the Integral Transformation of Conflict and Peace Building referred to the four components, according to Transcend (Johan Galtung) that must be present to build a non-violent world: survival, welfare, identity and freedom.
On the occasion of the international day of peace, the President of the SSIHRL had the pleasure to make the following statement:
The SSSIHRL has led since 2005, with the support of Unesco Etxea and sponsorship of the Generalitat of Catalonia, a debate among global civil society to determine the content and scope of the human right to peace, one of the a fundamental right essential to the enjoyment of all other human rights, but which necessitates universal recognition and measures of implementation.
In a first stage, extensive consultations have been held with Spanish experts from different disciplines and representatives of civil society organizations. The result of that work was the adoption on 30 October 2006, of the Luarca Declaration on the Human Right to Peace, which is the most complete contribution of Spanish civil society to the global debate on the content of this right.
The Declaration of Luarca is a normative text, drafted in accordance with the legal technique of international human rights instruments. The preamble echoes the holistic vision of peace that permeates the entire Declaration. Thus, peace is not limited to the absence of armed conflict, but also has a positive dimension aimed at achieving three objectives:
• meet the basic needs of all human beings;
• eliminate all forms of violence (armed, structural, family, gender, job, school)
• effective respect of all human rights for all
The Declaration emphasizes the need to establish a new international economic order, ensuring a just redistribution of global resources and the realization of social justice in order to remove inequalities, exclusion and poverty. Indeed, social injustices entail a structural violence that is incompatible with peace, in both the domestic and international sphere. Furthermore, the Declaration promotes the right to education on peace and human rights, as well as the peaceful settlement of disputes.
The SSIHRL is leading a global campaign of three years (2007-2009) to promote the human right to peace, through the organisation of conferences and meetings of experts on the human right to peace in all regions of the world. The Luarca Declaration is not a finished product presented to the world by Spanish academics, but de lege ferenda it is shared with international civil society with a view to discuss and enrich the present text by the incorporation of inputs received from all regions, reflecting the different cultural priorities and sensitivities of the world.
The Luarca Declaration was formally presented in March 2007 before the fourth session of the Human Rights Council. Since then the SSIHRL and one hundred endorsing NGOs have submitted written statements, made oral presentations and organised parallel events during all sessions of the Human Rights Council, addressing specific issues related to the content and scope of the human right to peace.
In November 2007 the Group of the States Friends of the process of codification of the human right to peace was constituted. As of today this group is composed of two States. We invite other States to join this initiative.
The SSIHRL is intent to organize and hold a World Conference of civil society in Geneva in 2010, in order to discuss all the contributions collected in the regional consultations and adopt a final text of the Universal Declaration on Human Right to Peace, which should reflect the aspirations of civil society as a whole. This text will then be submitted to the Human Rights Council, calling on States to start the official codification of the Human Right to Peace.
In parallel, the World Civil Peace Conference organised will propose in 2010 the creation of the International Observatory of the Human Right to Peace. This new NGO network will work with relevant local NGOs with the purpose of conducting field studies, publishing reports on situations of grave and massive violations of the human right to peace and developing objective indicators to measure the degree of fulfilment of this right by States.
The Human Right to Peace has experienced and continues to experience systematic violations throughout the world. These transgressions occur in both armed violence – there are more than 40 armed conflicts in the world, many of them forgotten- and the structural violence generated as a consequence of extreme poverty and famine that, far from narrowing, will affect in 2020 more than 1,200 million human beings, mostly women and children in the South. Other manifestations of violence, such as gender, labour, school and family, complete the bleak picture of the massive violation of human right to peace in our societies.
Our ambition is that one day the General Assembly of the United Nations will adopt a Universal Declaration on the Human Right to Peace together with appropriate measures for its monitoring and implementation. There are no insurmountable legal obstacles, because this right is strongly rooted in both the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly Article 28. Today both international human rights instruments are universally recognized.
The current barriers are more of political order. Nevertheless, these problems can be overcome if all parties join forces to build a just, lasting and sustainable peace. This aspiration is an ethical requirement that should preside international relations. The human right to peace is a moral imperative where civil society from around the world can feel really identified, because it is a requirement of civilization that is above all regional, historical or cultural particularism.
Therefore, we make a solemn appeal to all international actors: States, international organizations, international, national and local NGO, national and regional institutions of human rights, national parliaments, regional and international regional and local governments, members of the judicial power, universities and research institutes, and information, education, science and culture professionals, as well as any person of good will, to partner with our Global Alliance for the Human Right to Peace. The hundred NGOs from around the world who are with us already, demonstrate the social base of the Alliance.
Finally, let me publicly thank everyone who has made possible this event for their excellent work: interpretation and musical trio –volunteers- and the organizers: Mr. Ricardo Espinosa and his team, Ms Corinne Momal-Vanian (UN) and David Fernandez Puyana (SSIHRL and UNESCO Etxea).
Carlos Vill?n Dur?n
President of SSIHRL