The right do development in a globalized world



I. Development

1) Development must be a global process with mankind as its main focus and with the achievement of mankind’s personal potential (physical, intellectual, moral and cultural) within the community as its main aim;

2) The aforementioned process requires the active and conscious participation of individuals and communities in all stages of decision-making from defining objectives and the means to achieve them to implementing these objectives and assessing the results;

3) There is no one unique or predefined model for development, as real development entails self-determination for the various peoples, recognition of their sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources, and full respect for their cultural identity;

4) Development is not only an issue that concerns so-called ‘developing countries’. Rather, it is an objective of interest to the entire international community due to the interdependence which exists between nations;

The issue of development thus has legal, political, ethical, economic, social and cultural aspects.

II. The Right to Development

Some deny that development is a right and maintain that it is a series of acts dependent on the will and capacities of social players and states. Others accept the right to development as the recognition of certain minimum rights for all mankind, and finally there are those who assert that development is a fundamental human right with the complete realization of mankind’s potential as its objective.

III. The process of decolonization in the 1960’s resulted in the emergence of many new independent states. These states were generally poor and less developed economically.
This new political world-map gave fresh impetus to international standards in the area of economic, social and cultural rights, and it gave rise to the concept of the right to development.

Civil and political rights were laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the United Nations Charter in the period immediately after the war and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1966. Social, political and economic rights were enshrined in the 1966 Covenant and again in other international instruments. The right to development was mentioned various declarations until it was finally enshrined in the 1986 Declaration. These are the so-called first, second and third generation rights. There also exists a fourth generation of rights: solidarity rights.

Second and third generation rights are already outlined in the Preamble and in the third sentence of article 1; in articles 55 and 56 of the United Nations Charter, and in articles 22 and 28 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Fourth generation rights do not, chronologically-speaking, follow the other three, since they are already mentioned in article 1, paragraph 3 of the United Nations Charter: ‘To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character’ and in article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘All human beings should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’

Subsequent to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, a number of international and regional instruments and declarations referring to economic, social and cultural rights and to the right to development have been adopted1.

IV. A new category of human rights has therefore been established which, in contrast to civil and political rights, requires states to commit themselves to maintaining policies which ensure the enjoyment of these rights. Further commitments include abstention and non-interference, in accordance with the respect for the right of peoples to self-determination (a binding obligation laid down in article 1 of both the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) – and finally the commitment to respect permanent sovereignty over natural resources (GA Resolution 1803, 14/02/62).
The new standards in which the right to development became a reality are based on the following ideas: the recognition that countries have an unequal level of development; the need to consider the disadvantaged situation of least developed countries in international relations, and finally the recognition of least developed countries’ right to reparation for the secular exploitation of their wealth2.
A parallel can be drawn with the emergence of labor law, which arose out of the recognition that civil law could not cope adequately with situations in which contracting parties had an unequal negotiating capacity.

V. Initially, the right to development was considered to be primarily an economic right of less industrialized states to receive differentiated treatment from the international community, in particular from industrialized countries, in order to embark on the ‘way to development’.
This is how the expressions ‘developed countries’ and ‘developing countries’ came to be; these expressions have strong ideological content, as they imply that poor countries should take rich countries as a model for their development.

At the same time, it is clear that rich countries are not a model to follow. In these countries, the social gap between rich and poor continues to grow; privatization of public companies is creating new areas of exclusion in health, education, communication, transport etc.; exaggerated and irrational consumerism is threatening the environment and the preservation of natural resources, and the fear of losing one’s employment, together with the fact that unstable jobs are becoming more and more prevalent, are negatively affecting the quality of working life – both in skilled and unskilled employment. Irregular and longer working hours have become widespread; the number of accidents in the workplace, work-related illnesses and ‘stress’ are increasing; there are high levels of unemployment; urban violence is on the rise, and racism and right-wing extremism are gaining ground.

The other reason not to follow this ‘model’ is simply that there can be no one, unique development model, given the different cultures, histories and traditions that make up each people’s identity. This diversity of identities constitutes the essential wealth of mankind and this should not be sacrificed at the altar of globalization.

VI. With time and thanks to awareness-raising, new international instruments, general comments made by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights3 etc., the concept of the right to development broadened and became more refined. It was no longer a matter of economic rights alone, but rather human rights in general. The active and passive players were not just states, but instead included individuals and communities. The extent of these changes is such that we could consider the current concept of the right to development to consist of a series of rights with one common aim: achieving mankind’s complete potential, both as an individual and as part of a community.

VII. The legal standards which refer to the right to development have clear moral connotations. The inherent dignity of all members of the human family, to which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights refers in the Preamble and in articles 1 and 23 and to which the two Human Rights Covenants refer, is a moral concept. Human dignity, therefore, in addition to being a moral concept, is a legally protected good.


VIII. However, the idea that human beings – as stated in article 1 of the Universal Declaration – are free and endowed with reason and that they should therefore be guided by moral principles of brotherhood, is one which has experienced various trials and tribulations, and continues to so.

IX. The concept of the right to development and legislation governing economic, social and cultural rights made particular progress during the three decades following World War II.
Yet this concept and the application of standards relevant to it suffered a crisis when the economy experienced a downturn and when the economic foundations of the Welfare State began to erode. Thus, the globalization’s winners, we refer here to those who hold global economic and political power, launched an offensive by exposing their vision of the ‘world economy’ and the ‘world market’.

As a consequence, social inequality within countries and at an international level increased. The production and supply of goods began targeting not people in general, but rather so-called ‘solvent clients’. The supply of luxury goods thus increased enormously and the supply of new products, such as computers and mobile phones found a large client base in rich countries, in addition to many clients in countries of the first periphery where poverty levels were not so extreme.

At the same time, essential goods for survival (food, essential services, and medicine) remained out of reach of the world’s poorest. The idea of public services and the inalienable right to essential goods needed to live with a minimum of dignity was replaced with the statement that everything must be subject to market rules.

Today, when we hear neo-liberals say: ‘the economy must be open to market forces’, we understand that the economy (and society in general) must remain subject to a strategy determined by transnational, monopolistic capital, as embodied by transnational companies who aim to maximize profits and recklessly exploit the fruit of human society’s labor, savings and traditional and scientific knowledge.

Robert Reich, the American Secretary of Labor under the Clinton administration, explained in his book The Work of Nations (1991), that economic globalization, as praised so highly by the Bretton Woods institutions, has led the richest classes to separate their own interests from those of their country. This in turn has led them to feel neither interested in, nor obligated to, their less privileged neighbors in any way. The tiny minority of the very rich has formed an alliance that crosses borders, the nature of which means that the general interest is confused with the financial interests of its members4.

X. Over-exploitation of the labor force in the periphery, low prices for raw materials and products from these same countries, lowered living and working conditions in developed countries, an international economy based on speculation, appropriating small savings by various means including theft and fraud – these are all ways in which transnational capital is able to maintain a high rate of profits and an accelerated rate of accumulation and concentration of wealth despite slow economic growth and a restricted market.


XI. We might note that the expression ‘co-operation for development’ has almost disappeared from standard vocabulary used in international relations. It has been replaced by terms such as: ‘liberalization’, ‘flexibility’, ‘integration into the market economy’, etc. The implementation of policies which correspond to these terms have clearly had catastrophic consequences for humanity. Those responsible are the World Trade Organization and international financial institutions, who also try to exert their influence by means of certain draft regional agreements, such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Multilateral Investment Agreement (which is currently on hold), as well as a network of around 2.000 bilateral treaties on investment protection in force, all of which have taken the decision-making power in national economic policy away from numerous countries which do not belong the superpowers’ ‘club’.

XII. The term development has ‘almost’ disappeared from international vocabulary, because it was agreed at the WTO meeting in Qatar to open a ‘development round’, which the rich countries consider they can use to push their policies of deregulation, liberalization and privatization still further, going in the exact opposite direction to that of the right to development.

These characteristics of the contemporary world economy, known abstractly as the ‘globalized world’ – but which we prefer to call ‘neo-liberal, capitalist globalization’ – have an ideological base which implies either the total denial of the right to development, or its acceptance, but only to the extent of recognizing certain ‘minimum rights’ for all human beings.
The theories that totally deny the right to development view everything related to human life and human activities (work, health, education, culture, scientific research, artistic creation, law, family issues etc.) as being determined by an economic cost-benefit analysis – in other words, a calculation of profitability – rather than by the objective of securing the well-being of all human beings and allowing them to achieve their potential in a fair and supportive society. In this view, it is money, not mankind, which serves as a measure for all things.

XIII. In order not to lose ground, above all in the context of almost obscene inequalities, neo-liberal voices have had to change their tone. For a number of years, they have expressed social and environmental concerns and they have launched an irresistible crusade against poverty, or to be more precise, against extreme poverty. Irresistible, for who could be opposed to a fight against poverty?

Yet we should also question this rare unanimity in the ‘fight against poverty’. In an article in Esprit magazine5, the author says: ‘from non-governmental organizations at the base, up to the general director of the IMF, including World Bank directors and the European Union authorities, everyone today agrees on making the ‘fight against poverty’ a priority, in addition to appealing for the democratization of states and the involvement of civil society. Is this victory for advocates of ‘development’ or a fantastic manipulation staged by promoters of ‘world liberalization’?
This supposed ‘fight against poverty’ – which does not stop the poor from getting poorer and more numerous – aims to evade the issue of fighting inequality and to skirt over issues such as the redistribution of wealth and the structural causes of this inequality.
This explains why, in mainstream discussions, there is no talk of ‘satisfying needs’, but rather of ‘satisfying minimum needs’.

XIV. Jean Jacques Rousseau meditated on social injustices and wrote: ‘The first man, who, after enclosing a piece of ground, took it into his head to say, “This is mine,” and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. How many crimes, how many wars, how many murders, how many misfortunes and horrors, would that man have saved the human species, who pulling up the stakes or filling up the ditches should have cried to his fellows: Be sure not to listen to this imposter; you are lost, if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong equally to us all, and the earth itself to nobody!’6

This idea that the fruits of the earth belong to all has existed from earliest antiquity and continues to exist today: Lord Boyd Orr, who was the director of FAO, suggested that food was a common good of humanity. In 1989, when the Committee to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights began to debate the rights included in article 11 of the Covenant and looked at the right to adequate food, some Committee members said that the surplus of world resources represented a common asset belonging to the hungry and the poor and that it would be a failure of justice to deny access to it. In this Committee’s General Comment N1 12 on the right to adequate food, it says: ‘the right to adequate food is indivisibly linked to the inherent dignity of the human being and is indispensable for the fulfillment of other human rights enshrined in the International Bill of Human Rights.’7

XV. In 1931, John Maynard Keynes said something which is still fully relevant today: ‘I am convinced that certain things which are urgently needed in practice today, such as central control of investments and a redistribution of income that would provide purchasing power to guarantee a market for the huge production potential made possible by modern technology, will also tend to produce a better society … production methods have reached such a level of perfection that they have exposed faults in economic organization that have always existed.’8


XVI. Promoting the right to development implies a need to formally recognize the validity, inter-dependence, and compulsory and legally binding nature9 of the four generations of rights – including the right to solidarity – which are mentioned in numerous international instruments10. It implies also to substitute relationships of exploitation and subordination with relationships between equals, both at an interpersonal and international level, so that all peoples and all human beings without exception can enjoy all rights. In this way, the paradox that despite huge advances in science and technology and a dizzying increase in productivity and goods available, living conditions for a large part of humanity are becoming increasingly deplorable, could be wiped out.

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