December 10, 2021 marks the 73rd anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This year also marks the 5th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Right to Peace (DRP). As we celebrate the anniversaries of these two Declarations, let’s consider their interconnectedness and how world government, world law, and world citizenship are key to their implementation.
The UDHR and the DRP share the same ultimate goal: achieving world peace based on universal respect for human rights.
The interconnectedness between the Declarations becomes noticeable in the shared terms “peace” and “human rights,” which repeat multiple times in each document. Peace affirms human rights, and human rights affirm peace.
The UDHR refers to “peace” three times. The most significant occurrence appears in the Preamble: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
The DRP further affirms the indivisible link between rights and peace. Article 1 states, “Everyone has the right to enjoy peace such that all human rights are promoted and protected and development is fully realized.”
Education about our rights and of a culture of peace, according to both Declarations, is the principal way to raise awareness of these goals. To move beyond awareness into implementation, peace and human rights must be engaged and guaranteed by government at all levels from local to global.
Achieving peace and human rights must be the primary function of government. We must implement the UDHR and the DRP at the world level as well as lower levels because local and national governments alone do not have the capacity and oftentimes the willingness to fulfill this role.
The limitations of local and national governments hamper the achievement of peace. For example, within the nation-state system of exclusive sovereignty, our rights and duties begin and end at the border, allowing lawlessness and violence to reign beyond borders. In a global governmental system, our rights and duties apply to everyone, everywhere, placing accountability on each individual in society for upholding the rule of law.
We can learn from the effective aspects of national governmental institutions, such as parliaments and courts, which provide legislative processes and adjudication of disputes that allow for peaceful decision-making at the national level. By globalizing these legal processes, we can achieve peaceful decision-making beyond the nation-state – at the more impactful world level.
A world federal government, in its focus on the global rule of law, offers a system to transition from a society guided by war to a society guided by peaceful realization of our rights and duties.
If we define and implement peace by what it is – the presence of law – rather than by what it is not – the absence of war – then world peace becomes achievable. World peace is achievable through world law and world citizenship.
The UDHR provides a set of guiding principles to form the basis of an evolving world law. The UDHR provides a springboard for creating the participatory institutions and regenerative processes at the global level to help us to live together peacefully with each other and sustainably with the Earth.
To fulfill our right to peace as the DRP intends, we must move beyond the confines of our local identities that divide us. By seeing ourselves as world citizens, with universal rights and duties to each other and to the planet, we begin to govern our world with a unified voice — a world governed by us, the people of the world. With a world citizen mindset, we better understand that peace depends upon respect for rights and respect for rights depends upon peaceful interactions at all levels of human society.
As we celebrate the anniversaries of the UDHR and the DRP, let’s consider how we may implement the Declarations’ principles and framework for human rights and peace in our own lives, in our communities, and in the world.