Read: 1990 Feb 27, Protection of Minorities

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Statement to the 46th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
Item 20 of the provisional agenda: Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities at its 41st session

Geneva, Switzerland
January-February 1990

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The Baha'i International Community expresses its gratitude and deep appreciation to the Special Rapporteur, Mrs. Daes, for her excellent, comprehensive, and thought-provoking study that she updated and presented to the fortieth session of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1989/40 of 18 July 1989).

The Special Rapporteur's study points out, from the theoretical and, in particular, from the practical point of view, that the individual is a bearer of international rights and responsibilities, that she or he has a restricted procedural capacity directly under international law, and that the individual should be considered at least on a parallel with the State as a subject of contemporary international law.

The Baha'i International Community recognizes the principle of the "immutable law of change,"* that everything is either growing, improving, gathering, or dispersing and dying. The Special Rapporteur clearly explains in her study the evolutionary nature of international law. The Baha'i International Community wholeheartedly agrees with the Special Rapporteur that the present stage of international law should be considered as a transitional period leading towards a new world legal order in which the individual will be called upon to play a more important role as a subject of international rights, responsibilities and duties. Humanity is rapidly approaching a new order, a world commonwealth, which calls for sufficient flexibility to respond to the growing and ever-changing needs of modern society. Recent developments throughout the world demonstrate that the present-day order will soon be rolled up, "and a new one spread in its stead."

The Baha'i International Community envisages that a world commonwealth "must needs be evolved, in whose favor all the nations of the world will have willingly ceded every claim to make war, certain rights to impose taxation and all rights to maintain armaments, except for purposes of maintaining internal order within their respective dominions. Such a commonwealth will have to include within its orbit an international executive adequate to enforce supreme and unchallengeable authority on every recalcitrant member of the commonwealth; a world parliament whose members shall be elected by the people in their respective countries and whose election shall be confirmed by their respective Governments; and a supreme tribunal whose judgment will have a binding effect even in such cases where the parties concerned did not voluntarily agree to submit their case to its consideration."

The Special Rapporteur correctly points out in her study that unfettered national sovereignty is a concept associated with a bygone stage in the development of the world community and is not consistent with "the principles of international community interest or interdependence and of the status of the individual as a subject of international law" (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1989/40, para. 534). It is the Baha'i view that this is but a passing phase in the process of human evolution -- a social evolution "that has had its earliest beginnings in the birth of family life, its subsequent development in the achievement of tribal solidarity, leading in turn to the constitution of the city-state, and expanding later into the institution of independent and sovereign nations."

This process of change in international law has thus caused a partial elimination of the national sovereignty of States. Accordingly, humankind appears to be moving towards the establishment of a world commonwealth consisting of: (a) a true world legislature; (b) a binding world tribunal; (c) an effective world executive.

The present international system has within its ambit: (a) a de facto world legislative authority, divided among various law-making bodies, and (b) a de facto world court, divided among different international judicial bodies. The next logical step would be to enter the de jure stage. This will allow humankind to go beyond the inner limitations of the structure of present-day society.

Humankind is at present living at a special time -- a time of the incubation of a world commonwealth that has as its main purpose the safeguarding of the well-being of all humankind. Such a world commonwealth represents the next step in the evolution of civilization in general, and of international law in particular.

The Special Rapporteur mentions in sections IX and X of her study several elements that are in accordance with the concept of a world commonwealth.

The formation of a future commonwealth will, first of all, require a profound consciousness of the indisputable interdependence of all the nations of the world and the oneness of humankind. Subsequently, a strong, universal animus will be required to act upon this consciousness in order to bring humanity to its next evolutionary stage.

The principle of the oneness of humankind "calls for no less than the reconstruction ... of the whole civilized world" and the recognition of the concept of world citizenship. This pivotal principle does not, however, "ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnic origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world. It calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has animated the human race. It insists upon the subordination of national impulses and interests to the imperative claims of a unified world ... Its watchword is unity in diversity."

The Baha'i International Community considers it essential that all energies continue to be consecrated to action proposed by the Special Rapporteur to reinforce the status of the individual in contemporary international law. The United Nations has already made positive advances in this area. As the Special Rapporteur points out in her study, further progress, however, could be made by, inter alia: (a) according the individual personality under international law, (b) granting the individual certain rights and responsibilities as a subject of international law, and (c) allowing the individual more access to international instances in order to obtain effective redress for violations of his or her rights.

The Baha'i International Community wholeheartedly supports these initiatives via the community of nations.

The Baha'i International Community hopes that the Commission on Human Rights will consider its comments and the general recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur and act upon the specific recommendations contained in paragraph 568 of her updated study by adopting an appropriate resolution.

* All unreferenced citations are from the Baha'i writings.

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