Featured Image: Prof. Dr. Alfred de Zayas. By Anonym (ein Gefälligkeitsfoto für Prof. Alfred de Zayas), CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
Alfred de Zayas, a long-time member of the U.N. human rights secretariat having started in 1980; was elected by the U.N. Human Rights Council as an Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order in September 2011. This book brings together elements of his 14 thematic reports during his six years as as a Special Rapporteur. (Clarity Press, Atlanta GA: 2021, 466pp.)
Special Rapporteurs are elected by the Human Rights Council as human rights specialists. They can undertake country visits and engage in discussions with a wide range of groups and U.N. secretariat members to raise sensitive issues. Some Special Rapporteurs are country specific; usually named after long debates in the Council on these countries. Other Special Rapporteurs deal with broad themes such as the Right to Food, the Right to Housing, the Right to Water and Sanitation, Indigenous Peoples.
Alfred de Zayas draws on the work of other Special Rapporteurs to underline that developing a world order is a holistic process linking armed conflict resolution, human rights promotion, political participation and peacebuilding.
Special Rapporteurs are not U.N. staff and do not receive a salary for their work; but their work is facilitated by secretaries of the U.N. human rights staff. As de Zayas writes:
“I am convinced that the function of a rapporteur is to give impulses and concrete recommendations to governments and civil society, speak clear language, tear down pretences and double standards. One thing the rapporteur must not be: a guardian for the status quo, a fig leaf for the international community, so that everybody can pretend to have a good conscience and continue business as usual.”
As de Zayas stresses:
“A democratic and equitable international order necessarily functions on the basis of multilateralism and international solidarity. It aims at promoting a culture of peace and dialogue among nations and peoples, fully respecting the sovereignty of States and ensuring that members of civil society in all countries have ample space to express themselves and to enjoy their individual and collective rights and to pursue their traditions, culture and identity.”
Obviously; as we look at the current world society; there are many obsticles to a culture of peace and dialogue. De Zayas sets out some of the ways to deal with these obsticles.
“Honest dealing and the pursuit of peaceful relations is a better strategy if humanity is to reap cooperation and progress in human rights terms. What is most needed today is mature diplomacy, result-oriented negotiations, a culture of dialogue and mediation.”
Many of the specific recommendations made have also been made by the Association of World Citizens. However; de Zayas gives much more background and references to U.N. documents and discussions. He highlights the important role that non-governmental organizations; (increasingly called civil society) can play. However; he warns of the backlash against NGOs by governments and business corporations.
“Greater efforts are needed to limit current attempts to shrink the space of civil society at the international and domestic levels. Arbitrary and undue restrictions on the effective enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, seriously obstruct the realization of a more democratic international order.”
This is an important book for those working on the development of world law; a rules-based order in the spirit of the U.N. Charter.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.