Human rights are essential to achieving and sustaining development. The Millennium Declaration, adopted by all the world’s leaders in 2000 recognized the link between human rights and development. The UN General Assembly’s High-level Plenary Meeting on the MDGs in 2010 (The MDGs Summit) reaffirmed that common fundamental values, including freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for all human rights, respect for nature and shared responsibility, are essential for achieving the MDGs.
The commitment was reaffirmed by Member States in the 2012 Rio+20 Conference, where states emphasized their responsibilities “to respect, protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability or other status”. They also stressed the need to reduce inequalities as well as foster social inclusion and acknowledged that democracy, good governance and the rule of law, at the national and international levels, are “essential for sustainable development, including sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development, environmental protection and the eradication of poverty and hunger.”
With only two years left until the MDGs expire in 2015, these human rights commitments need to be honoured in the implementation of the MDGs. Furthermore, they must be the bedrock of the development agenda that follows the MDGs. More specifically, this means that the “Post-2015 Development Framework” must be a truly universal and balanced agenda that is applicable to all; that addresses the freedom from want and from fear; that is consistent and aligned with all human rights, that addresses pervasive inequalities and dismantles discrimination, is built on strong accountability mechanisms, and an agenda that fosters policy coherence and allows free and meaningful participation for all.
Consistent and growing demand for human rights in the Post-2013 Development Agenda
In 2012, the UN Secretary-General initiated a process to support member states in determining the post-2015 development framework. All key outputs from this process reflect a strong, consistent and growing demand for human rights to be integrated fully in the Post-2015 Development Agenda:
- The Secretary General’s UN Task Team on Post-2015, of which OHCHR is an active member, delivered a first report, Realising the future we want for all, in June 2012. It identified human rights (along with equity and sustainability) as a fundamental principle for the post-2015 agenda.
- In an effort to ensure broader participation of all stakeholders, the UN Development Group (UNDG) facilitated over 80 national consultations and 11 global thematic consultations on key themes. Together with UNDP, OHCHR co-led the Global Consultation on Governance and contributed substantively to the global consultations on (In)equality, Health, Water and Food Security and Nutrition consultations as well as a number of national consultations . The final report of the Governance Consultation, which confirmed the measurability of human rights and governance, stressed that “Accountability and transparency, underpinned by international human rights standards and principles, are essential for ensuring that development is sustainable and responsive to the needs of people.” The Global Consultation on (In)equality highlighted that the “most common feature of the hundreds of papers and other submissions was the clear view that any response to inequalities can and must be guided by human rights, and that the post-2015 development framework must reflect this.”
- UNDG also launched an on-line survey, MY World where participants vote on their development priorities. Over the first year, the top priorities have consistently included education, health care, responsive and honest government and better job opportunities.
- The Report by the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda of May 2013 stressed that “no person – regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status – should be denied universal human rights and basic economic opportunities.” and that “new goals and targets need to be grounded in respect for universal human rights”.
- The Secretary-General’s report of July 2013, A life with dignity for all, consolidated these inputs and highlighted that “no person anywhere should be left behind; that no person should go hungry, lack shelter, or clean water and sanitation, face social and economic exclusion or live without access to basic health services and education- these are human rights and form the foundations for a decent life”. It also stresses that “the post-2015 development agenda will need to be supported by a renewed global partnership grounded on [the values of equity, solidarity and human rights].”
- The UNDG’s report, A Million Voices: The World We Want of September 2013 summarised the outcomes from national and global consultations and emphasised that “[p]eople demand that this new agenda be built on human rights, and universal values of equality, justice and security” and that “ [t]he framework should articulate a human rights approach underpinning each “sectoral” goals.”
Member states discussions have begun.
Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals
The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG), agreed at the Rio+20 Conference and established by Member States, is made up of 30 seats – shared by 70 member states from the five UN regional groups. Between March 2013the OWG is meeting on a monthly basis (except July, August, September and October) to discuss specific thematic issues. This includes a session on “Human Rights, Right to Development” in December 2013.
The OWG requested the UN system to provide Issues Briefs on each of its themes. As an active member of the UN Task Team, OHCHR contributed to many of the Issues Briefs. By September 2014, the OWG will submit its report and recommendations to the General Assembly containing a proposal for sustainable development goals.
The OWG sessions are open to participation by representatives from a wide range of stakeholders, in particular civil society organisations in consultation with the UN Economic and Social Council. It is also possible for civil society organizations to contribute to the work of the OWG by submitting documents, positions papers, and articles that relate to the development of the Sustainable Development Goals. (more information on civil society participation)
High Commissioner’s Open Letter to Member States
In June 2013, the High Commissioner issued an Open Letter to Member States calling for a new universal and balanced development framework that addresses both freedom fear and freedom from want, encompasses economic and social rights, personal security, political participation and justice administration, implemented through a rights-based approach, with higher levels of participation, accountability, equality and non-discrimination, empowerment, and the rule of law, and include benchmarks for policy and institutional reform at the international level.
Special Event to follow up on efforts made towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals at the 68th session of the UN General Assembly
During the high-level segment of its 68th Session, the UN General Assembly held a Special Event to follow up on efforts made towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Member States adopted an Outcome Document, which reaffirmed “the importance of promoting human rights, good governance, the rule of law, transparency and accountability at all levels” and emphasised that the post-2015 agenda should promote “peace and security, democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality and human rights for all.” It also announced that the intergovernmental process will be launched in September 2014 and will culminate in a summit of heads of states in September 2015 for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda.