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On 10-12 February at Atlanta Georgia I attended two separate events at the Carter Center — one devoted to the eradication of violence against women and the role of women in peacemaking,– the other focusing on democracy and elections. Was happy to meet old friends including Sir Nigel Rodley, Felice Gaer, Michael O’Flaherty and Gay McDougall. President Carter received me in his office for a briefing on my mandate as UN Independent Expert and I took the opportunity to advocate for the draft Declaration on the Human Right to Peace being negotiated at the UN Human Rights Council as a step toward achieving an international order that is more democratic and equitable. I stressed the urgent need to remind States of their commitments under article 2(3) of the UN Charter to settle all disputes by peaceful means, and under article 2(4) to refrain from the threat of or the use of force in international relations. I expressed growing concern with the dangerous war-mongering by politicians and journalists in many countries, in flagrant contravention of article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I proposed that The Elders should issue a statement on the Ukraine and on Iran urging politicians to implement the UN Charter’s pledge to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Indeed some politicians have been galloping away with war rhetoric — making it difficult to retreat to more sensible approaches. Hence we need a de-escalation committee at the United Nations, a neutral forum where politicians can calm down and accept the historical evidence that violence only begets violence, and that peace cannot emerge from a surge in military might, but only from a concerted effort and strategy to address the root causes of violence and terrorism. I praised theCarter Center for its patient and persevering commitment to democratic elections, stressing, however, that democracy cannot be only the ballot-box, but entails a daily commitment to consultation and public participation, a correlation between the will of the people and the policies that affect them. There are many programmes and initiatives of the Carter Centre that deserve high praise — including its amazing success in fighting the Guinea worm disease in many African countries including Ethiopia, Mali, Chad, South Sudan, and Ghana and for its program for the eradication of river blindness in Nigeria, Sudan Uganda, Brazil, Venezuela, Guatemala and Ecuador, etc. I also had the opportunity to discuss the Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Initiative with its director Laura Neuman — focusing on the Human Rights Committee’s new General Comment Nr. 34 on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the rejection of “blasphemy laws” and “memory laws” as totalitarian. But if we want to prevent an Orwellian dystopia, we must defend whistleblowers and dissenters, we must vindicate the right to be wrong. I visited the Carter Centre’s excellent museum, walked through the beautiful grounds and ponds of the architectural complex, counting the playful squirrels on the way and admired many of the oil paintings by President Carter himself. I strongly recommend Carter‘s book “Our Endangered Values” — there is much wisdom in it.
Photo credit: The Carter Center
Photo credit: Michael Schwarz/The Carter Center