The Right to Peace: From Ratification to Realization

Donna J. Perry, Christian Guillermet Fernández, and David Fernández Puyana

On 19 December 2016, the Declaration on the Right to Peace was ratified by the plenary of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in a majority vote by its Member States (Resolution A/71/189). This resolution had previously been adopted by the UNGA Third Committee on 18 November 2016 in New York and the Human Rights Council (HRC) on 1 July 2016 in Geneva.1

Article 1 of the resolution states that, “Everyone has the right to enjoy peace such that all human rights are promoted and protected and development is fully realized.”2 This provision entitles all human beings to the benefits that stem from the three UN pillars–peace, human rights and development.

This is important news for the right to health. In our previous papers we have written about the important links between peace and health.3 Collective violence undermines conditions essential to realizing the right to health as identified in the 2000 UN Economic and Social Council’s General Comment 14 including food, shelter─and life itself. Further, war erodes human dignity, the cornerstone of all human rights.

The rights to peace and health are interrelated with other rights that promote a life of dignity for all. In this way, Article 2 of the Declaration on the Right to Peace proclaims the obligation of States to “respect, implement and promote” key principles grounded in the notion of human dignity, including equality, non-discrimination, freedom from fear and want, as well as justice and the rule of law.4

The establishment of the declaration on the right to peace is a critical milestone but realizing the goals of this instrument will require a global transformation toward a culture of peace as put forth in the 1999 Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. It is important to note that Article 8 of the declaration calls for health professionals to play an important role in building a culture of peace.

A key role in the promotion of a culture of peace belongs to parents, teachers, politicians, journal­ists, religious bodies and groups, intellectuals, those engaged in scientific, philosophical and creative and artistic activities, health and hu­manitarian workers, social workers, managers at various levels as well as to non-governmental organizations.5

Toward this end it is critical that health professionals are educated about human rights and the interrelatedness of all human rights including health, peace and sustainable development. The critical connections between these domains is recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.6

A human rights framework for health and peace can easily be integrated into existing health professions’ curricula, particularly in courses on community and population health. An integrated approach would make human rights training seamless and practical and help students to understand the interrelated nature of health and human rights domains. For example, in the graduate school of nursing where author 1 teaches, a class on human rights, health, and peace has been incorporated into a health policy course for all doctoral nursing students. The class teaches students that human rights instruments are important tools to use when advocating for population health.

The need for peace is urgent. In recent years millions of refugees have fled their homes in a desperate attempt to escape violence. At the time of this writing, circumstances have grown even more wretched as refugee families in Europe shiver in encampments with insufficient shelter from winter’s cold. The new Declaration focuses particularly on the victims of war and conflicts, emphasizing that, “present generations should ensure that both they and future generations learn to live together in peace with the highest aspiration of sparing future generations the scourge of war”.7

While there is much work to be done in realizing the full potential of the right to enjoy peace, human rights, and development, ratification of the declaration represents an international commitment that can serve to strengthen this work. Health professions must now do our part and work with other members of civil society to help everyone to fully access and enjoy the three UN pillars in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is critical for our own and future generations.

Donna J. Perry, PhD, RN, is an Associate Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Worcester Graduate School of Nursing and serves on the Board of the Center for Nonviolent Solutions in Worcester, MA. 

Christian Guillermet Fernández, BA was the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Right to Peace (2013-2015), Costa Rica

David Fernández Puyana, PhD, LLM and BA was the legal assistant of the Chairperson-Rapporteur (2013-2015), Spain


  1. United Nations General Assembly, 3rd (October 31 2016), UN Doc. A/C.3/71/L.29. Available at
  2. United Nations General Assembly (see note 1)
  3. J. Perry, C. Guillermet Fernández, & D. Fernández Puyana, “The right to life in peace: An essential condition for realizing the right to health,” Health and Human Rights Journal 17(1) (2015, June), pp. 148-58. Available at
  4. United Nations General Assembly (see note 1)
  5. Declaration on a Culture of Peace, G.A. Res. 53/243 A, UN Doc. No. A/RES/53/243 (September 13, 1999). Available at
  6. United Nations General Assembly. (2015, August 12). Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UN Doc. A/69/L.85. Retrieved 10.4.15 from
  7. United Nations General Assembly (see note 1)