The right to peace
G7 Summit

The right to peace

Around the world, senseless violence is destroying lives. As the G7 leaders discuss these conflicts, the people and the profound harm that is being done to them must be at the forefront of finding peaceful solutions, ensuring that the same human rights standards are deployed everywhere

The G7 Apulia Summit takes place at a time when waves of conflicts are battering people’s lives, destroying economies, profoundly damaging human rights and carving even deeper fault lines across and between nations.

Senseless violence is destroying lives in Ukraine, in Sudan, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Myanmar, in Haiti, and across the Middle East – above all, in Gaza.

When the leaders discuss this – country after country – the people and the profound harm that is being done to them must be at the forefront.

At a time of such atrocious violations, is it unrealistic to demand that all states uphold their human rights commitments?

Is that not the most crucial, the most consequential, the most immediate task that any
of us could possibly undertake?

The right to peace is the mother of all human rights. Without peace, all other rights are quashed. It is urgent that we devise ways to counter warmongering, fear and the illogic of escalating hatred and hostility – which bring short-term profit to a few, while ruining the lives and rights of millions. We need to regain a mindset of peace. This means the art of de-escalation: keeping communication channels open, rebuilding trust, and taking up the long-term work of healing and reconciliation – re-establishing a sense of the interconnectedness and the shared destiny of all humanity.

And states’ human rights obligations are, in reality, our only guarantees – essential, and profoundly rooted – to anchor our societies in the midst of turbulence and disarray.

Last December, United Nations members and many partners came together at a high-level event to commemorate 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was the culmination of a year-long engagement across the world and resounded with demands that the world deliver on the promises of the Universal Declaration.

Demands for change

Demands for action to end conflicts. To eradicate discrimination. To heal our distorted economies and our battered environment. Demands for quality services, such as education and health care. For an end to corruption. For a voice in one’s own future. And over and over again, demands that we change course – to bring humanity the benefits of greater justice, more inclusive development, greater equality and peace.

By the end, 153 states had issued concrete pledges, alongside civil society groups, UN bodies, businesses and others: over 770 pledges, ranging from commitments to increase women’s leadership and employment equality, to tackle extreme poverty, ensure transitional justice and improve access to education, health care and social protections.

Equally important was the outpouring of support from the public, in every corner of the globe. The Open Society Barometer – a survey of over 36,000 people in 30 countries – found that the vast majority agreed that human rights have been a “force for good”. The silent majority holds to the human rights principles that ensure progress and justice across all societies, and keep our world safe.

Human Rights: A Path for Solutions is a distillation of lessons from our commemoration year, setting out eight messages to guide renewed action for peace, economies that work for people and planet, guardrails for digital and scientific progress, and effective governance.

It puts human rights at the centre of solutions to humanity’s greatest challenges, offering a roadmap for more effective and inclusive governance – nationally and internationally.

A landmark year for democracy

With elections in over 60 countries, where nearly half the world’s people live, this year could be a landmark one for democratic principles.

Demos, the people; kratos, rule: a meaningful, safe and fully participatory electoral process is key to ensuring that governance serves the people’s human rights.

But democracy is also broader than the singular electoral moment every three, four or five years. It lives – or dies – with the people’s right to participate constantly in the conduct of public affairs.

That empowerment of people from all walks of life is the superpower of genuinely participatory societies. It ensures trust in the institutions of governance, with decision-making that is more relevant and more effective, because it is better informed and balances the needs of different groups.

But instead, elections are often viewed as a winner-take-all contest, with seats in governments the spoils of conquest – rather than an opportunity to serve people and advance their rights. Politicians deliberately enflame antagonism and xenophobia to garner support, particularly in electoral periods.

In this headlong rush to abandon the common good for short-term personal benefit, they are tearing up the fundamental human rights principles that can unite us all.

The power of human rights is rooted in their universality – the equal value of every human life that is at their core. The same human rights standards must be deployed everywhere, and they must be benchmarks for future progress – not high-water marks from which we can recede.

Every human is born equal. All victims equally deserve justice. No one can be left behind. And nobody – no state, no institution and no leader – is above the law.