Key points for a true Right to Development


It may seem incongruous to discuss development or the right to development at a time when the idea of zero or negative growth is gaining ground in the West because of the frenetic exploitation of natural resources. However notions such as development, development aid or economic growth must not be confused with the right to development.

 Adopted in 1986 by the UN, the Declaration on the Right to Development specifically refers to the participation and the contribution of “every human person and all peoples” to “economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized” and it requires that all may “benefit from this development”. This Declaration constitutes an international instrument of primary importance, for it asserts the right to development as a human right in all its dimensions and unequivocally clarifies the principles that should regulate international relations, all in a spirit of equality and mutual respect tending toward its full realization. It emphasizes collective rights, the right of peoples to choose their own development model, and insists on international cooperation among countries, a cooperation which is not reduced to simple international aid, even though such aid may be deemed “essential”. In this regard, it constitutes, overall and along with the corpus of human rights instruments, a further instrument for peoples in the struggle against neoliberalism.

A text was presented at the 19th session of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development (April 2017) in the context of the debate on the development of a Convention on the Right to Development (an instrument with a binding legal status). Below are some extracts. The complete text is available on our web site.

The discussion within the Working Group deals with the implementation of the right to development. Most of the elements contained in the two documents presented to the Working Group for the drafting of a convention on the right to development are significant and praise-worthy. However, we should like to remind the assembly that the basic reference for the right to development is the Declaration on the Right to Development adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1986 in order to achieve the desired objective. (…)

Having said this, we wish to make several proposals regarding the measures to be taken in order to eliminate the obstacles to the realization of the right to development. In our opinion, the following are the most important and urgent measures to be taken.

  1. Respect for the sovereignty of states and of the right of peoples to decide their own future: the right of peoples concerns above all their right to participate in decision-making, a right that is violated today everywhere in the world.
  2. International cooperation must be based on good faith. The recourse to threats, black-mail, conditions and the use of force must be eliminated.
  3. Current rules for trade and investment must be radically changed, for they favor the monopoly of transnational corporations in all areas and constitute a major obstacle to the realization of the right to development. These rules must be subordinated in particular to the right to development and in general to human rights.
  4. Foreign debt continues to be a burden for many of the countries of the Global South. Furthermore, it is subject to conditions and does not serve the development of the countries concerned but constitutes an instrument of domination in the hands of the powerful at any given time.
  5. Radical measures must be taken against fraud and tax evasion, which deprive states of substantial income with which to honor their commitments in the realization for their populations of the right to development in particular and human rights in general.
  6. At present, transnational corporations have many rights but no responsibilities. It is urgent to impose a legal framework on their activities to prevent them from violating the right to development and other human rights. (…)
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