Right to development

The UN Charter constitutes a normative framework of the right to development. The members of the United Nations are obliged to promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development. This commitment has gained wider currency in the 1960s also due to decolonization processes happened around the world. As a consequence, Doudou Thiam, then-Foreign Minister of Senegal, first mentioned the term “right to development” in 1966 speaking before the General Assembly of the UN. He referred to the right of the “Third World” to resolve the growing economic imbalance between the developing and developed worlds. His intervention before General Assembly has caused an intensive debate at the relevant United Nations forums and among UN members.

It led to the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development on 4 December 1986. The Declaration confirms the right to development as universal and inalienable, interrelated, interdependent and an integral part of fundamental human rights. All peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development. The Declaration is not in itself legally binding but provides a guiding standard to the commitments expressed in the UN Charter.

The right was consequently reaffirmed in 1992 in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, in various international declarations and outcome documents including United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Addis Ababa Action Agenda, Sendai Framework and Agenda 2030.

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action established a framework to implement the right to development. The least developed countries that want to enjoy right to development are committed to undertake the process of democratization and economic reforms. This agenda should be supported by effective international cooperation in order to support the national development policies and equitable international economic relations of least developed countries.

Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development stressed that sustainable development can be achieved through inclusive economic growth, environment protection, social inclusion, and respect of all human rights. The unattainable goal to end poverty and hunger worldwide can be accomplished by respect of rights of development.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development highlights a tangible link between the right to development and sustainability of the development. The Agenda calls governments, international and regional partners, civil society to build inclusive societies that are based on respect for human rights (including the right to development), and on transparent, effective and accountable institutions.

Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and Paris Agreement on climate change speaks about phenomena that affect directly the enjoyment of the right to development, namely natural disaster and climate change. Those documents provide framework to mitigate negative impact of natural disasters and climate change on the right to development.

The major challenges to the realization of the right to development encompass the its politicization, lack of engagement and adverse global trends.

There significant disagreements on the nature of the duties of States to realize the right to development and how to measure progress towards implementing the right. These differences of opinions trigger a low level of engagement of United Nations agencies, member states and civil society. As a result, the implementation of the right remains low. The recent global economic crisis, climate change and the increasing number of natural disasters have negative impact on the fulfillment of the right to development.

To address these challenges, following recommendations should be taken into consideration in order to realise the enjoyment of the right to developement:

  • Develop a constructive dialogue platform and strengthen the inclusive participation, dialogue, consultation by facilitating cooperation and creating links between initiatives and relevant stakeholders;
  • Ensure effective international cooperation, in particular global partnerships for development;
  • Ensuring that no-one is left behind in the realization of the right to development, in particular indigenous peoples, minorities, persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups;
  • Reinforce the interdependence and indivisibility of all human rights and create links to the right to development;
  • Remove structural obstacles to the implementation of the right to development in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda;
  • Providing practical measures and mechanism for the realization of the right to development at the national and international levels.
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