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Opening statement by Mr. Bacre Ndiaye, Director and Officer-in-Charge, Research and Right to Development Division, OHCHR: Realizing a vision for transformative development

4 December 2013

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning and a warm welcome to you all. I am very pleased to open this Author Roundtable on behalf of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On this day in 1986 the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development. Our newest publication ‘Realizing the Right to Development’ is a celebration of the right to development and today’s anniversary. This book presents a wealth of resources and guides us on the practical application of the right to development. It is the outcome of three long years of intensive and collaborative efforts in research and writing and I thank the editors and authors for their contributions and welcome the authors present with us today. Thank you.

Built around the themes of Situating - Understanding - Cooperating for - and Implementing the right to development, the contributions to this volume not only clarify the meaning and status of this right but survey the most salient challenges—based on actual development practice—to its transformative potential. They unravel the building blocks of the right to development – like active, free and meaningful participation in development. What does that mean? It fosters fair and democratic development policies. It also shows how global regimes for aid, debt, trade, technology transfer, intellectual property, access to medicines and climate change among others, stand to be enriched by genuine international cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Declaration on the Right to Development upholds the right of all peoples to self-determination. It does not accommodate colonialism, foreign occupation or domination in any form. And it has no place for racism or racial discrimination or xenophobia. Peoples’ sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources, intrinsic to the right to development, cannot permit the unfair exploitation of resources and appropriation of profits including in the mining and extractive industries. Tax avoidance and illicit financial flows cannot be upheld in a framework aimed at the fair and equitable distribution of the benefits of development. The tragic stories of migrants who died at Lampedusa might never have been told, had their right to development been upheld. And the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster may not have faced their fate, had their right to development been realized. These are all but two cases of what history has to tell of the countless men, women and children who could have decided their own development and defined their own destinies - if only they had a choice.

It is now widely recognized that reliance on market forces as the sole engine for development has failed to provide a path to progress for all, fairly and equitably. The alternative vision of the right to development aims at the constant improvement of human well-being. It points to a paradigm which helps to surmount the challenges of our turbulent times, and offers a beacon of hope for the future. For the thousands of people washed away by typhoon Haiyan, the right to development, underlined by international solidarity, could have been life-giving.

The right to development promotes an enabling environment for development and the enjoyment of all other human rights by all. Its normative framework addresses gaps and failures in responsibility, accountability and regulation in both national and global governance. The multiple crises of recent years affirm the call of the Declaration on the Right to Development for meaningful reform in global governance most notably in the economic arena, to ensure equality, democracy and accountability in line with human rights standards.

The contours of this right were shaped with contributions from great jurists including Mohammed Bedjaoui, Georges Abi-Saab and my own countryman, Judge Keba Mbaye. Just as the right reiterates the call of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for a social and international order in which rights and freedoms can be fully realized, so too it builds on that universal vision affirming that Governments, the international community, and all, have responsibilities to make this vision a reality.

Twenty years ago, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action underscored that human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. It reaffirms the right to development as a universal and inalienable human right. Since then, the right to development has been reaffirmed time and time again in numerous global instruments including the outcome document of Rio+20 in 2012. It is legally binding under the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. And it is embodied in the 2004 Arab Charter on Human Rights and the 2012 ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. These commitments reinforce the recognition in the Universal Declaration that everyone has duties towards the community in which alone the free and full development of his or her personality is possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I know we are far from a time when right to development was a laughing stock. It was a dream. It was asked how this could be called a right. To move to making the right to development a reality for all calls for coherent policy, convergent practice and collective action supportive of all other civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as development and peace. It calls for swords to be turned to ploughshares, and an end to the senseless cycles of violence and warfare both within and between States.

The contributions to this volume make a strong case for revitalizing this right, and to advance human rights, development, and peace and security in an increasingly interdependent world, including in the post-2015 agenda for sustainable development and I will also say countries like Central African Republic, where I hope the international community will take up their global responsibility. The global conversation about the new agenda and goals brings us to the cross-roads. From our participation in the planning and preparations, it has become clear that people expect us to articulate human rights - including the right to development - in clear and practical terms and at the heart of the new global agenda. The right to development has for too long, been a voice in the wilderness. But its wisdom has endured the test of time, and to ignore it, would be to miss the woods for the trees, until we reach the point of no return. The right to development can guide us to the ‘The Future We Want’, if only we let it lead.

Thank you.