Explanation of Vote on the resolution entitled
“United Nations Declaration on the Right to Peace”
delivered by Stephen Townley,
U.S. Delegation to the UN Human Rights Council – 23rd Session
June 13, 2013
Thank you, Mister President.
We would first like to take this opportunity to thank Costa Rica for its leadership on a very difficult issue. While we voted against the establishment of the Working Group, whose mandate this draft resolution proposes to renew, we participated constructively in its first session and appreciate the Chairperson-Rapporteur’s inclusive, transparent approach. We also recognize that Costa Rica has been patient in listening to disparate points of view and trying to find a consensus. Unfortunately, despite the Chair’s efforts, there appear to remain fundamental differences in the way different states view the objective of the Working Group.
As we have stated many times in our discussions of this resolution throughout the years, the United States believes that respect for human rights is fundamental to ensuring peace in any society. We know that any peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please, choose their own leaders or assemble without fear.
International human rights bodies can and do make crucial contributions to advancing the important cause of international peace. Consistent with the framework set forth in the UN Charter and the covenants, we believe that the most appropriate and effective way for them to do so is through increased attention to implementation of existing human rights obligations.
But the United States continues to question the value of working toward a declaration on the so-called “right” to peace. This proposed right is neither recognized nor defined in any universal, binding instrument, and its parameters are entirely unclear. Nor is there any consensus, in theory or in state practice, as to what such a right would entail. Regardless of how it has been promoted, studied or framed, past efforts to move forward with the ‘right to peace’ have always ended in endorsements for new concepts on controversial thematic issues, often unrelated to human rights. The result has inevitably been to circumvent ongoing dialogue in the Council by using broad support for the cause of peace to advance other agendas.
Human rights are universal and are held and exercised by individuals. We do not agree with attempts to develop a collective ‘right to peace’ or to position it as an ‘enabling right’ that would in any way modify or stifle the exercise of existing human rights.
Therefore, as we said during the first session of the Working Group explaining the basis for our participation, we are not prepared to negotiate a draft Declaration on the ‘right to peace.’
We do, however, remain open to the possibility of discussing, for instance, the relationship between human rights and peace or how respect for human rights contributes to a culture of peace, including in this Working Group. But if the focus is on negotiating a Declaration on the ‘right to peace,’ the Working Group will surely continue to be divisive.
No country wants to be cast as ‘voting against peace.’ This resolution, however, and a Working Group with the mandate to negotiate a Declaration on the ‘right to peace’ will not contribute to the cause of peace or human rights. A vote against this resolution is not a vote against peace, nor is it against efforts to discuss human rights and peace or find a way to reflect on those linkages, but it is rather a vote against continuing an exercise with little relationship to human rights or to peace. We hope that there can still be a constructive path forward on the issues of human rights and peace, which are important to us all, but the text before the Council today does not show us that path and, therefore we must call a vote and vote against this resolution.
Thank you, Mr. President.