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Right to Development

“We, heads of State and Government, … are committed to making
the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing
the entire human race from want.”
UN Millennium Declaration


DEVELOPMENT IS A HUMAN RIGHT FOR ALL


Landmarks in the recognition of development as a human right

Chronology of major developments
before and after the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development

(Note: Various UN mechanisms set up to address the right to development are shown in italics)

Year

Developments

Excerpts, references, provisions, mandates, commitments and remarks from the corresponding sources

1944

Declaration of Philadelphia, General Conference of the International Labour Organization (1944)

All human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual freedom in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity.

1945

UN Charter

> to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom (preamble);

> to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion (Article 1);

> to promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development (Article 55).

> to take joint and separate action in co-operation with the Organization for the achievement of the purposes set forth in Article 55 (Article 56).

1948

Charter of the Organization of the American States

Each State has the right to develop its cultural, political, and economic life freely and naturally. In this free development, the State shall respect the rights of the individual and the principles of universal morality (Article 17).

1948

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (GA res. 217 A (111))

> All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood (Article 1).

> Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services (Article 25);

> Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized (Article 28).

1960

Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (GA res. 1514 (XV))

> All peoples have an inalienable right to complete freedom and to the exercise of their sovereignty and territorial integrity;

> All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

1961

Programme for the First United Nations Development Decade (GA res. 1710 (XVI))

> All States were called to intensify their efforts to mobilize and to sustain measures to achieve self-sustaining growth of nations and their social advancement.

> Appealing for more "equitable" and "mutually acceptable" economic relations between developed and developing countries, the GA reaffirmed the duty of States to cooperate internationally and express solidarity to create the conditions necessary to achieve the target set.

1962

Declaration on permanent sovereignty over natural sources (GA res. 1803 (XVII))

The Declaration proclaimed the inalienable right of peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources, and that such sovereignty was a basic constituent of the sovereign and inalienable right of peoples to self-determination, including development.

1965

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (GA res. 2106 (XX))

The Convention condemned all forms of racial discrimination against individuals and groups; further defined some of the basic principles on which the right to development is based – non-discrimination, equality and social justice.

1966

International Covenants on Human Rights – Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GA res. 2200A (XXI))

Both Covenants recognize that "…the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights" (third preambular common paragraph).

1968

Proclamation of Teheran, International Conference on Human Rights

The Final Act of the Conference states that achievement of lasting progress in the implementation of human rights is dependent upon sound and effective national and international development policies of economic and social development.

1969-1974

The Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Manouchehr Ganji > to submit a comprehensive report, together with his conclusions and recommendations including the question of the role of the Commission in this regard, on the realization … of economic, social and cultural rights … , taking particular account of the special problems of the developing countries in this regard, … The study is contained in documents E/CN.4/1108 and Add.1-10)

1969

Declaration on Social Progress and Development (GA res. 2542 (XXIV))

> The Declaration affirmed that the aim of social progress and development is “the continuous raising of the material and spiritual standards of living of all members of society, with respect for and in compliance with human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Part II, Objectives)

> All peoples and all human beings, without distinction as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, family or social status, or political or other conviction, shall have the right to live in dignity and freedom and to enjoy the fruits of social progress and should, on their part, contribute to it (Article 1)

1970

Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (GA res. 2625 (XXV))

The Declaration reaffirms and elaborates upon the principle of equal rights and self-determination contained in the Charter of the United Nations, reaffirmed in common article 1 of the two International Covenants on Human Rights and subsequently incorporated in article 1 of the Declaration on the Right to Development.

1970

International Development Strategy for the Second United Nations Development Decade (GA res. 2626 (XXV))

The Strategy recognized the interdependence of development and human rights, including the right of peoples to self-determination and the related concept of popular participation.

1974

Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order (GA res. 3201 (S-VI))

The Declaration affirmed inter alia that the present international economic order is in direct conflict with current developments in international political and economic relations. Since 1970 the world economy had experienced a series of grave crises which had severe repercussions, especially on the developing countries because of their generally greater vulnerability to external economic impulses.

1974

Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States (GA res. 3281(XXIX))

The Charter aimed at the establishment of a new international economic order based on equity, sovereign equality, interdependence, common interest and cooperation among all States, irrespective of their economic and social systems, and to contribute to the creation of conditions for the eradication of injustices and inequalities, for social and economic progress of the developing countries and of other countries, and for the strengthening of world peace and security.

1974-2005

Sub-Commission on Human Rights

> Since 1974, the Sub-Commission developed and considered several studies and reports on various thematic issues relevant to the right to development (see OHCHR’s website, RTD documents archive).

> The Commission on Human Rights requested the Sub-Commission to prepare a concept document establishing options for the implementation of the right to development and their feasibility, inter alia, an international legal standard of a binding nature, guidelines on the implementation of the right to development and principles for development partnerships… (CHR res. 2003/83).

> In 2006, the Sub-Commission was replaced by the Advisory Committee. 

1979-present

The Secretary-General

> The S-G submitted reports and studies on the international dimensions of the right to development as a human right (E/CN.4/1334), the regional and national dimensions of the right to development as a human rights (E/CN.4/1421 and 1488) and on popular participation (E/CN.4/1985/10)

> The S-G submits an annual report on the right to development to the GA and the Human Rights Council.

1979-2005

Commission on Human Rights

> For the first time the CHR recognized the right to development as a human right (res. 4 (XXXV)) of 2 March 1979.

> The CHR considered and adopted a resolution on the right to development on an annual basis from 1985 to 2005. The CHR was replaced by the Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2006.

1980

International Development Strategy for the Third United Nations Development Decade (GA res. 35/56)

It underlined the relationship between human rights and development, the individual and the collective, national and international justice, and the need for a new international economic order and structural changes at the national and international levels aimed at the democratization of institutions and decision-making processes.

1981

African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

All peoples shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind (Article 22).

1981-1989

Working Group of Governmental Experts on the Right to Development (15 experts)

> to study the scope and content of the right to development and the most effective means to ensure the realization of economic, social and cultural rights (res. 36 (XXXVII) of 11 March 1981);

> to submit concrete proposals for implementation of the right to development and for a draft international instrument on this subject (res. 36 (XXXVII) of 11 March 1981);

> to submit recommendations to the CHR on practical measures to implement the Declaration and specific proposals for future work (res. 1987/23).

1981-present

General Assembly

> The GA declared that the right to development is an inalienable human right (res. 36/133 of 14 December 1981).

> The GA considers and adopts a resolution on the right to development on an annual basis since 1987 to present.

1986

DECLARATION ON THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT (GA RES. 41/128)

1990

Global consultation on the Right to Development as a Human Right

The consultation was organized on 8-12 January 1990 in Geneva as requested in CHR res. 1989/45.

1992

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development

The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations (Principle 3).

1993

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

> The World Conference on Human Rights (for the first time all UN Member States by consensus) reaffirmed the right to development, as established in the Declaration on the Right to Development, as a universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights;

> The international community should promote an effective international cooperation for the realization of the right to development and the elimination of obstacles to development;

> Lasting progress towards the implementation of the right to development requires effective development policies at the national level, as well as equitable economic relations and a favourable economic environment at the international level. (para. 10).

1993-present

High Commissioner for Human Rights and OHCHR

> The GA established the post of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in order, inter alia, to promote and protect the realization of the right to development and to enhance support from relevant bodies of the United Nations system for this purpose (para. 4 (c), GA res. 48/141 of 7 January 1994);

> Subsequently, the GA asked the High Commissioner to mainstream the right to development and undertake effectively activities aimed at strengthening the global partnership for development among Member States, development agencies and the international development, financial and trade institutions” (see annual GA resolutions on the right to development);

> The Human Rights Council asked the High Commissioner to ensure inter-agency coordination within the United Nations system with regard to the promotion and realization of the right to development” (res. 19/34 of 18 April 2012).

1993-1995

Open-ended Working Group of Governmental Experts on the Right to Development (15 experts)

> to identify obstacles to the implementation and realization of the Declaration;

> to recommend ways and means towards the realization of the right to development by all States (CHR res. 1993/22).

1994

Cairo Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development

The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet the population, development and environment needs of present and future generations.

1995

Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development

Promoting the realization of the right to development through strengthening democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and through effective development policies at the national level, as well as equitable economic relations and a favourable economic environment at the international level.

1995

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Fourth World Conference on Women

We reaffirm our commitment to the equal rights and inherent human dignity of women and men and other purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, in particular …, as well as … and the Declaration on the Right to Development.

1996-1997

Intergovernmental Group of Experts on the Right to Development (10 experts)

> to elaborate a strategy for the implementation and promotion of the right to development;

> to elaborate concrete and practical measures for the implementation and promotion of the right to development.

1998-present

Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development

> to monitor and review progress in the promotion and implementation of the right to development, as elaborated in the Declaration, at the national and international levels, providing recommendations thereon and further analysing obstacles to its full enjoyment, focusing each year on specific commitments in the Declaration;

> to review reports and any other information submitted by States, United Nations agencies, other relevant international organizations and non-governmental organizations on the relationship between their activities and the right to development;

> to present for the consideration of the Human Rights Council a sessional report on its deliberations, including advice to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with regard to the implementation of the right to development and suggesting possible programmes of technical assistance, at the request of interested countries, with the aim of promoting the implementation of the right to development (CHR res. 1998/72);

> to complete the tasks entrusted by the Council in its resolution 4/4 (HRC res. 9/3 of 24 September 2008).

1998-2003

The Independent Expert of the Commission on Human Rights on the right to development, Dr. Arjun Sengupta

> to present to the intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development at each of its sessions a study on the current state of progress in the implementation of the right to development as a basis for a focused discussion (CHR res. 1998/72)

2000

Millennium Declaration

“We (Heads of State and Government) are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want.”

2002

Monterrey Consensus of the International Conference on Financing for Development

Freedom, peace and security, domestic stability, respect for human rights, including the right to development, and the rule of law, gender equality, market-oriented policies, and an overall commitment to just and democratic societies are also essential and mutually reinforcing.

2004

High-level seminar on the right to development: Global partnership for development

The seminar was organized on 9-10 February 2004 as requested in CHR res. 2003/83.

2004

Arab Charter on Human Rights

The right to development is a fundamental human right and all States are required to establish the development policies and to take the measures needed to guarantee this right. They have a duty to give effect to the values of solidarity and cooperation among them and at the international level with a view to eradicating poverty and achieving economic, social, cultural and political development. By virtue of this right, every citizen has the right to participate in the realization of development and to enjoy the benefits and fruits thereof (Article 37).

2004-2010

High-level task force on the implementation of the right to development (5 experts)

To provide expert findings and recommendations to the intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development (CHR res. 2004/7)

2005

World Summit Outcome

“We resolve further to strengthen the United Nations human rights machinery with the aim of ensuring effective enjoyment by all of all human rights and civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.”

2007

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions (Article 23).

2010

African Commission on Human and People’s Rights

The Commission found that the way in which the Endorois, an indigenous community in Kenya, was dispossessed of its traditional lands and denied access to resources constituted a violation of their rights, including the right to development under Article 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

2010

Outcome document of the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals

We also reaffirm the importance of freedom, peace and security, respect for all human rights, including the right to development, the rule of law, gender equality and an overall commitment to just and democratic societies for development.

2011

Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020

Equity at all levels is indispensable for the pursuit of long-term prosperity and the realization of all the internationally recognized human rights, including the right to development by all.

2011

UN Treaty bodies

The Chairpersons of the UN Treaty Bodies made a joint statement: “we are resolved to make a concerted effort to promote a development-informed and interdependence-based reading of all human rights treaties, so as to highlight and emphasize the relevance and importance of the right to development in interpreting and applying human rights treaty provisions and in monitoring compliance with these provisions” (See OHCHR’s website for the full text).

2011

UN system organizations

Eighteen UN system organizations issued a joint statement: “Since 1986, this Declaration has provided normative underpinnings for a human-centered approach to development. Human development and human rights are embedded and reinforce each other conceptually and in practice, helping to secure the well-being and dignity of all people” (See OHCHR’s website for the full text).

2012

Doha Mandate, 13th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Development strategies should be inclusive and designed to meet human needs. People have similar needs and aspirations, including freedom, human rights including the right to development, …

2012

Future We Want, Rio+20 Outcome Document, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

“We (the Heads of State and Government and high-level representatives) also reaffirm the importance of freedom, peace and security, respect for all human rights, including the right to development and the right to an adequate standard of living, …”

2012

ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

The Declaration devoted a section to the Right to Development (see Articles 35-37) and stated, inter alia, that ASEAN Member States should mainstream the multidimensional aspects of the right to development into the relevant areas of ASEAN community building and beyond, and shall work with the international community to promote equitable and sustainable development, fair trade practices and effective international cooperation.

2012

Quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system (GA res. 67/226)

This document provides policy guidance for the UN operational activities for development. It reaffirmed the importance of freedom, peace and security, respect for all human rights, including the right to development and the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food, the rule of law, gender equality, women’s empowerment and the overall commitment to just and democratic societies for development.

2015

The Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals

High Commissioner's Open Letter on Human Rights and the Post-2015 Agenda

Click here for Word version