The Barcelona Declaration on the Human Right to Peace

Carlos Villán Durán
President of the Spanish Society for the Development and Application of International Human Rights Law (AEDIDH)
Carlos Villan Duran

Carlos Villán

On 2 June 2010, the International Drafting Committee - consisting of 10 specialists from the world's five regions - approved the Barcelona Declaration on the Human Right to Peace in the Catalan Parliament (available at The meeting had been organised by the AEDIDH and the ICIP, under the auspices of the Catalan institutions. It was the culmination of a legislative initiative by international civil society that had begun on 30 October 2006 with the adoption of the Luarca Declaration on the Human Right to Peace by 15 Spanish specialists, which was in turn reviewed by the Bilbao Declaration on the Human Right to Peace, approved on 24 February 2010 by a Committee of Drafting Experts consisting of 14 Spanish specialists. The Bilbao text was the basis for the written work that was completed in Barcelona.

The Barcelona Declaration will in turn be submitted for endorsement by international civil society, which will meet in Santiago de Compostela (Spain) as part of the International Congress on the Human Right to Peace on 9-10 December 2010, during the Forum 2010 or the World Social Forum on Education for Peace.
As well as approving the Santiago Declaration on the Human Right to Peace, the Congress will debate the statutes of the future International Observatory of the Human Right to Peace, which will be established at AEDIDH and will have a double role: to foster application of the Santiago Declaration all over the world, and to ensure that its articles are taken into account during the official codification of the human right to peace.

The three approved Declarations (Luarca, Bilbao and Barcelona) show that it is possible to take the universal value of peace from the moral or philosophical sphere towards legal classification as a human right. They are written in accordance with the legal technique used in international instruments, and the preambles set out a holistic approach to peace, which is not only negative - the absence of armed conflicts - but also positive, and considered in three dimensions. First, satisfying the basic needs of all human beings, in order to eradicate the structural violence produced by economic and social inequalities in the world. Second, eliminating all types of cultural violence (gender, family, school, work, etc.). Third, providing effective respect for all human rights and the basic freedoms of all people.

The three Declarations therefore emphasise the need to establish a new international economic order to end inequalities, exclusion and poverty. This must also be based on respect for the environment and be rounded off with an education that fosters identities that are not linked, in order to unlearn war; general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control; elimination of gender-based inequality; and the eradication of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on racial, ethnic or religious grounds.

The three Declarations are the main milestones during the international campaign in favour of the human right to peace by the AEDIDH over four years (2007-2010), which was based on two areas: first, sharing the Luarca Declaration with specialists and representatives of civil society at 20 meetings held in the five regions of the world. Contributions were gathered from the various international cultural sensibilities, in seven regional Declarations which were inspired by the Luarca Declaration and ratified its universal scope. They were approved between 2008 and 2010 in the cities of La Plata, Yaoundé, Johannesburg, Bangkok, Sarajevo, Alexandria and Havana (available at and led to the review of the Luarca Declaration which led to the Declarations approved subsequently in Bilbao and Barcelona. These cover aspects such as the prohibition on discrimination in exercising the human right to peace; mechanisms for compensation for victims of human rights violations; the scope of the right to resistance against oppression and totalitarianism; reinforcement of the gender approach; and groups in situations of vulnerability.

The international community is also kept informed of the progress of the campaign, by means of active participation by the AEDIDH and associated NGOs (now more than 500) in the periods when sessions are held at the United Nations Human Rights Council and other relevant bodies, organising parallel meetings of experts and formulating joint written and oral declarations (14). These cover the most controversial aspects relating to the contents and scope of the human right to peace, and advocate the holistic view of peace demanded by international civil society.

The progress made in recent months by the international campaign for the human right to peace could not be considered satisfactory, as two strategic objectives have been reached. First, to articulate the contents and scope of the human right to peace in a Declaration that does justice to the aspirations of international civil society, recognising that peace is a universal human right. Second, to persuade other member States of the Human Rights Council to begin the international codification of the human right to peace. This was achieved on 17 June 2010 when the Human Rights Council, acknowledging the importance of the contribution by organisations in civil society to the codification and development of the right to peace, decided to ask its Advisory Committee to prepare a draft declaration on the right of peoples to peace.

The AEDIDH will continue to work with the Advisory Committee and the Human Rights Council so that the announced draft declaration also includes the individual dimension of the right to peace, the gender perspective and care for people belonging to groups in situations of vulnerability. We hope that the United Nations General Assembly approves the Universal Declaration of the Human Right to Peace, which will facilitate the adaptation of international human rights law to the real needs of international civil society, making it possible to think of human relations within the framework of a culture of peace in other terms.