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Declaration on the Right to Peace: Closing Statement
February 21, 2013

Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group
on a Draft United Nations Declaration on the Right to Peace,
first session (18-21 February 2013)

February 20, 2013


Thank you Mr. Chairperson.

We appreciate all of your work as Chair of this meeting, and the inclusive approach that you adopted.  We have listened with interest to the wide range of views expressed over the course of the last four days, and we appreciate the way you have reflected them in your factual report.  We would like to reiterate, to avoid any possible doubt or confusion, our view that this meeting was to exchange views, not to negotiate the declaration, although of course delegations were free to make textual proposals, as some delegations did; as well as our position that we are not prepared to negotiate a draft Declaration on the right to peace.

Despite our having voted against the establishment of this working group, we have participated constructively and in good faith in this meeting, for the opportunity to exchange views with other states, as well as civil society.  Over the last few days, we explained our opinions regarding a few groups of topics that the draft Declaration addresses.  These groups of topics include: first, disarmament, peacekeeping, use of force and weapons of mass destruction; second, private military companies and private security companies; third, development, poverty, and the environment; and, fourth, refugees and migration.  We have noted that these topics are not appropriately addressed by this working group – and that each of them is already adequately addressed elsewhere.  While we have pointed to problems with the draft’s treatment of these topics, our identification of certain issues does not mean that we accept other aspects of the draft that we did not mention.

In closing, we have three observations, based on what we have heard this week.

First, a number of delegations have stated that this initiative should only go forward on the basis of consensus.  We agree with them.  Further, a great number of delegations have asked to exclude from this draft any concepts that do not enjoy universal consensus.  One delegation phrased this idea as, “We cannot accept terms not supported by consensus of the entire international community.”  We simply note that the concept of a right to peace, itself, does not enjoy consensus.

Second, we have heard much discussion about the essential nature of the putative “right to peace.”  There remains a lack of agreement over that fundamental issue, including  who is the holder of any such “right,” in particular, whether such a “right” governs international relations between states, or is a right of “peoples,” or is a right of individuals, or is something else.  To the extent that colleagues wish to discuss matters such as the resort to force or disarmament, those issues of relations between and among States do not belong in this Working Group or even in the Human Rights Council.  And to the extent that colleagues wish to discuss a right that is held by individuals, or even by groups of individuals, and which might allow remedies from states, we have yet to hear any explanation of the content of this right.  These conceptual gaps seem to us insurmountable.

Finally, many colleagues have stated the relationship between peace and human rights.  That relationship is a close and important one.  However, that relationship has been described in different ways, for example in consensus General Assembly resolutions on a Culture of Peace.  We disagree with the proposition that some stated, that peace is a prerequisite to the exercise of human rights.  This suggests, in the context of this discussion, an unacceptable hierarchy of rights; further, the lack of peace cannot be an excuse for a government not to comply with its human rights obligations.  But others have stated the relationship in a way with which we strongly agree: that the promotion and protection of human rights is conducive to peace.  In fact, we think that is the issue we should be discussing, not the creation of a new right – and we would welcome that discussion.