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Peace as a Human Right: Vox Populi, not yet of UNESCOAntonio Papisca
Peace is worldwide claimed as a «human right» in the milieu of civil society organisations and movements but is still missing in the list of rights aknowledged by the pertinent international legal instruments. As regard the right to peace we are still in the phase of «declarations».
Exception should be made for the African Charter of Human Rights and the Rights of Peoples, but its binding value is at the African regional level. UNESCO by its own Constitution should be concerned with the juridical recognition of the right to peace in the larger framework of the international law of human rights. Since long time UNESCO is addressing the challenge of constructing peace as a fundamental right in the context of its political-educational mandate. In 1997 the item was in the agenda of the General Conference but the results were disappointing. There was no consensus at all. The records include statements, most of them by representatives of Western countries, that show both Realpolitik determinism and lack of specific competence. Arguments against were that if peace is recognised as a human right, peace would become a pre-condition for realising human rights then weaken the latter, or that Pinochet and Stalin were for peace but not for human rights, and so on. Somebody even said that UNESCO should not address the subject because peace and security do not belong to its mandate, and that peace should not be upgraded to the level of fundamental rights because it would be difficult to carry out a war!
The author of the essay argues that, in fact, the legal recognition of peace as a human right implies heavy obligations for states: first of all, they will be deprived of the ius ad bellum, the right to make war, and they will be obliged to fully implement the principles and provisions of the UN Charter dealing with the use of force and the functioning of the collective security system. But the recognition of the human right to peace has now become an urgent task for UNESCO since the syndrome of the «easy war» is dramatically becoming a pandemia. The essay provides evidence that in some countries, local government institutions, together with civil society organisations and universities, are advancing states in aknowledging the right to peace. It is the case of the Region of Veneto, in Italy, which endorsed a bill in 1988 and further improved it in 1999: article 1 formally recognises peace as a «human right and a right of peoples».