UN expert calls on countries to strengthen protection of civil society voices, whistleblowers

Alfred de Zayas, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order. Photo: K. Berking

11 September 2013 – A United Nations independent expert today urged Governments worldwide to provide adequate protection to members of civil society, including whistleblowers, and ensure transparency in their decision-making processes.

“A democratic and equitable international order cannot be achieved as long as civil society actors continue to be subjected to intimidation, harassment and violence, and individuals are denied the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs,” said the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas.

“Specific protection must be granted to human rights defenders and whistleblowers who have in some contexts been accused of being unpatriotic, whereas they perform, in reality, a democratic service to their countries and to the enjoyment of human rights of their compatriots.”

Mr. de Zayas underlined that access to truthful and reliable information from diverse sources, including from free media, is essential to people so that they can develop their own opinions and effectively take part in the conduct of public affairs.

“I am dismayed that notwithstanding lip service to democracy, too many governments seem to forget that in a democracy, it is the people who are sovereign,” he said, adding that many governments appear to be more responsive to special interests such as the military-industrial complex, financial banking and transnational corporations, than to the wishes of their own populations, which creates massive social and economic inequalities.

“The disconnect between power and the people must be remedied,” he added.

In his report to the UN Human Rights Council, Mr. de Zayas made a number of recommendations aimed at protecting the voices of marginalized groups as well as at enhancing the participation of all individuals in political processes.

“Recent popular movements in different parts of the world show how direct participation in domestic and global decision-making is necessary, and why the instruments of direct democracy including popular initiative and referenda are becoming increasingly attractive,” Mr. de Zayas said.

“Reform of the United Nations system, including of the Security Council, of the Bretton Woods Institutions and of the World Trade Organization is necessary to advance toward an international order that is more democratic and more equitable,” he said.

“A more democratic and equitable international order is no utopia,” the Independent Expert concluded. “It can and will be achieved when Governments and civil society work together to make the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter a reality for our and future generations.”


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