The Convention on the Right to Development on the right track



Geneva, May 31st – From 15 to 19 May 2023, the 24th session of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development was held in Geneva to examine the second revised draft convention on this right. The CETIM took an active part in the debates.

During the negotiations on the new version of the draft convention, we observed once again the divisions over the right to development between Northern and Southern countries. For example, the European Union and the United Kingdom opposed the adoption of a convention, arguing that governments should instead focus on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)1. However, the UN is constantly sounding the alarm to the fact that these objectives will not be achieved by their deadline (2030). Moreover, is it possible to achieve them within the framework of the current dominant neoliberal world order, which relies mainly on transnational corporations to deploy its development strategies, therefore compromising any possibility to conceive other models of development by and for peoples?

Such an approach is merely a pretext for not joining the consensus on the future instrument on the right to development, but reveals the vested interests defended by the states of the North in order ultimately to perpetuate inequitable power structures in the international order. After all, the SDGs are only “goals ” and therefore not binding on States. Furthermore, they do not call into question the current economic and trade policies that are at the root of socio-economic inequalities. In this context, the right to development, in addition to being a recognised human right, establishes an alternative democratic approach in which the people are both the subject and the central actors of this right in the elaboration of policies and programmes for its implementation.

In line with their historic commitment since the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development (1986), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), supported by China, initiated in 2019 the process of drafting a convention on the right to development2. By presenting solid and constructive positions, the NAM remains the most powerful bloc of countries pushing for the adoption of a strong binding instrument on the right to development.

While some Latin American countries, such as Cuba and Venezuela, have contributed constructively to the debates, other countries in the region, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia, have made equivocal statements rather than clear support for the draft convention, which at first glance seems inconsistent with the progressive positions displayed by their current governments. At the end of its deliberations, the Working Group agreed to send the draft convention to the UN General Assembly for further discussion and subsequent adoption.

The draft convention under negotiation aims to operationalise the right to development. It is a legally binding instrument that is essential for combating inequalities and socio-economic crises around the world, at international, regional and national levels. Indeed, this new legal instrument could be a crucial step towards improving the situation of billions of people suffering from the current multidimensional crisis and serious inequalities.

We call on social movements and civil society organisations around the world to urge their governments to commit to this legal instrument, and then to its implementation. Strong social mobilisation is essential, particularly in the countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia, where the future convention can become a powerful ally in the popular struggles of social movements and excluded sections of society.

1 This is also the position of the United States, Canada, Australia, Switzerland and Japan, although the latter did not take part in the talks.

2 For more information, see:

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