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The Construction of a Just World Order

Additional Info

  • Autore:

    Marjolijn Snippe

  • Titolo:

    Member of the WFM Executive Committee

Alfred de Zayas

Building a Just World Order

Clarity Press, Atlanta, 2021


In August 2021, Alfred de Zayas – Cuban-born American lawyer, professor, writer, historian, and expert in the field of human rights and international law – published his new book Building a Just World Order (480 pages). Most of us will know Alfred de Zayas as the first United Nations Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order (2012-2018), in which role he relentlessly stressed the need for an enforceable rules-based international order that is aimed at sustainable development, respect for human rights and the welfare of future generations.

The book, which I would like to describe as “an ethical roadmap towards the universal application of the rule of law in the service of human dignity”, compiles the fourteen reports and notes (including his report on Venezuela), that Alfred de Zayas submitted to the Human Rights Council and the United Nations General Assembly during his mandate (2012-2018), as well as twenty-five principles of international order. In the blurb, Maria Fernanda Espinosa writes “The 25 Zayas’ Principles of International Order are a modern Magna Charta”.

Alfred de Zayas meticulously dissects the present system of international relations, and he exposes the malpractices that till now have prevented the realisation of the democratic and equitable international order he envisages. Although the United Nations Charter – which he calls a moral compass – promotes peace, development and human rights, these noble principles have not been reached. One of the causes for this is that the Westphalian sovereign equality principle is overruled by the overwhelming economic power of some countries. He unveils the lobbies and special interests that have gradually hijacked human rights with the weaponization of human rights for geopolitical purposes and the systematic double-standards applied both by governments and non-governmental organizations. The, what he calls, “human rights industry”[i] focuses too much on individual cases and not on the collective rights of peoples. He asks the question what is left of the, at the time, adopted idea that human rights are universal, interrelated and interdependent, and he denounces the selective indignation that primarily serves geopolitical interests. Both economic and social rights, and political rights must be observed simultaneously. Universal human rights constitute a holistic system in which the dignity of all human beings stands central.

Alfred de Zayas makes too many good observations on why the world is presently lacking a genuine international order, to recite them all in this concise book review. But I will name a few: the centralisation of financial control by few, tax havens, the democratic character of democracies in which the democratic will of the people is manipulated by misinformation, gigantic military expenditures, the free trade agreements with their investor vs. state dispute-settlement recourses  (that undermine the rule of law because they circumvent public courts), and the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). About the latter he writes: “responsibility to protect, an Orwellian scam to circumvent the UN Charter, in particular to legitimize military intervention without Security Council approval, in contravention of Article 2(4) of the Charter. It is advocated by states that have a geopolitical interest in interfering in the affairs of other states and want to place a mantel of “legitimacy” over it.”

About intervention in the name of democracy Alfred de Zayas writes: “The bottom line is that “democracy” cannot be exported and imposed by force, that human rights are not the result of a vertical, top-down enforcement, but rather require a horizontal recognition of the dignity of every human being, and that the exercise of human rights depends on education, mutual respect and solidarity.”

The book holds a treasure of recommendations to states, international organizations and civil society, how to do better. Among others he proposes (I name just a few): reform of the United Nations, in particular of the veto privilege of five of the members of the Security Council, with reference to Joseph Schwartzberg’s book “Transforming the United Nations System”, and also to the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly Campaign (UNPA); to make ecocide a crime under the ICC Rome Statute; to criminalise war-profiteers and pandemic vultures, not to impose economic sanctions that affect innocent people, and to protect whistle-blowers.

The overall message of the book is that international law is not something that can be picked from à la carte, selectively, with double standards, and arbitrariness in the application of international law. International law must be applied universally and holistically.

Building a Just World Order is a must-read for all those who are truly seeking a genuine world federation.


[i] Alfred de Zayas’ next book “The Human Rights Industry” is forthcoming.


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