Right to development

Inequalities within countries and between so-called developed and developing countries continue to grow. According to the Global Inequality Report 2022 : “The richest 10% of the world’s population earn 52% of global income, while the poorest half earn only 8%. And an individual in the top 10% of income earns an average of 87,200 euros a year, while those in the bottom 50% earn 2,800 euros. Inequalities in wealth are even more pronounced than in income. The poorest half of the world’s population has virtually no wealth, owning just 2% of the total. Conversely, the richest 10% own 76% of it “.1

In fact, the catastrophic spread of these inequalities and consequent poverty on a global scale makes it imperative to implement and promote the right to development.

What is it ? Which right and which development are we referring to?

The Declaration on the Right to Development (DRD) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1986. It results from efforts of the Non Aligned Movement to establish a fairer and more equitable New International Economic Order. The DRD opposes the dominant ideology in which economic growth is the primary objective of development.

On the contrary, the DRD asserts that the human person – individually and above all, collectively – is at the heart of all activity not only economic but also social, political and cultural. In this sense, it must be the central subject and not merely the object, of a development process that is based on people’s active, free and meaningful participation.

The objective of the Right to Development is to achieve self-determination and sovereignty of peoples regarding their choice of development model, in a spirit of equality and mutual respect. The Right to Development also implies that the benefits of development be distributed equitably. The DRD postulates that all States, individually and collectively, adopt as a priority, the realization of all human rights (civil, political, economic, social and cultural). After tough negotiations over the wording of the text, a number of powerful Northern states tried to scrap it, to soften it and even to misrepresent its content. Constantly attacked by these states, the DRD has never been implemented. It directly opposes current political policies, in particular those of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the G7 and NATO. The policies of these institutions run counter to the aspirations of peoples of the South to autonomy and self-reliant development.

Nevertheless, thanks to the perseverance of many countries of the Non Aligned Movement (which today includes more than 120 states) and China, a process to develop a draft Convention on the Right to Development has been initiated recently at the United Nations. The aim is to make the Right to Development “operational”. In October 2023, the UN Human Rights Council on the right to development adopted the latest version of the draft Covenant (the term finally chosen instead of Convention). This text should shortly be ratified by the UN General Assembly. CETIM made an active contribution to the debates on this issue. Indeed, for more than two decades, our association has regularly intervened at the UN and follows developments closely in order to ensure that the Right to Development is not forgotten or diverted from its purpose. It also watches closely to make sure that its implementation is not systematically obstructed but on the contrary, is properly supported and promoted.

1 See the World Inequality Report 2022, coordinated by Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucma.


Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council

Draft international covenant on the right to development

Intergovernmental Open-ended Working Group on the Right to Development

Special Rapporteur on the right to development

Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development

CETIM’s statements at the UN

CETIM publications related to the right to development (other publications are only available in French here)


Debate on the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to development

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL 48th session In December 2020, CETIM had already submitted to the Special Rapporteur a series of data, proposals and demands collected from social movements and NGO’s from several countries on climate justice in link with collective economic and social rights in the context of sanitary, economic and climate crisis. After having collected […]

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UN legally binding instrument on the right to development underway

The North-South divide is once again evident in the debates on the draft Convention on the Right to Development. Despite opposition from the West, Southern countries are committed to an instrument that could orient the international order towards greater equity. Following several delays induced by the pandemic, the 21st session of the UN Human Rights […]

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Food: a central issue for sustainable development

ECOSOC High-level Segment Agenda item 5 The economic and social policies that have been imposed for several decades in the context of the neoliberal globalisation have led to an increase in poverty and the exacerbation of inequalities. In rural areas, this situation is particularly worrying and the global food crisis is getting worse every year.

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