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Opening statement by Ms. Tamara Kunanayakam, Chairperson/ Raporteur at the 15th session of the Working Group on the Right of the development

12 May 2014

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning and welcome to the 15th annual session of the Working Group on the Right to Development, which coincides with the 15th year of the Group’s existence. This year, we are also celebrating the contributions made to the world by Small Island Developing States, which are facing unprecedented challenges in achieving development, with climate change threatening their very existence.

The challenges faced by Small Island Developing States remind us of the gravity of the current global crisis, its multidimensional character and the urgency for collective action. In this context, the ongoing efforts of the entire United Nations System to elaborate a post-2015 sustainable development agenda is of significance for the realization of the right to development in that it provides us, at this crucial moment in the history of humanity, yet another opportunity to advance a framework for an alternative vision of society, a society based on values and principles, and in harmony with the environment, so that life with dignity becomes a reality for all without discrimination, for present and future generations.

I hope that this 15th anniversary of the Working Group, and what it stands for, will inspire us to move forward with the sense of urgency that the current global situation demands, to confront and eliminate the obstacles that stand in the way of development, to translate our commitments into concrete action, and to create the conditions for the enjoyment of the inalienable right to development for all peoples, everywhere.

Before proceeding to the substance of this meeting, I would like to express my gratitude to you all for the trust and confidence you have – once again – placed in me. I am deeply honoured to be re-elected as Chairperson-Rapporteur of this Working Group. I assure you of my dedication and commitment to make every effort to contribute toward ensuring that the Working Group continues to make progress toward the fulfillment of its mandate.

May I also request the secretariat to convey my personal gratitude to the High Commissioner as well as the appreciation of the Working Group for having taken the time to address the Group and for her inspiring statement at its opening session. Her presence bears witness to her dedication and support to the realisation of the right to development and to this Working Group.

I would also like to extend our thanks to Mr. Craig Mokhiber, Chief of the Development, Economic and Social Issues Branch, for opening this session and conducting the election of the Chairperson-Rapporteur. His tireless efforts and that of his staff, throughout the year, to facilitate the work of this Working Group and advance the cause of the right to development are much appreciated.

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,

In October last year, I presented the report of the 14th session of the Working Group to the 3rd Committee of the General Assembly and, for the first time, had the opportunity to engage in an interactive dialogue with the Committee. During the dialogue, Iran, speaking on behalf of NAM, as well as Cuba supported the elaboration of a legally binding instrument on the Right to Development. China and Cuba called for mainstreaming of the Right to Development. Iran inquired about the major obstacles faced by the Working Group in fulfilling its mandate. South Africa urged the international community to cooperate with each other for the attainment of development. Indonesia encouraged OHCHR to step up its efforts in promoting the right to development, and Cuba proposed the establishment of concrete measures and policies to realize the right to development at the national level.

In its resolution 68/158, the General Assembly, once again, invited the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group to present an oral report and to engage in an interactive dialogue with the Assembly at its sixty-ninth session.

In paragraph 9 of its resolution, the General Assembly emphasised that it is important that the Chair-Rapporteur and the Working Group, in the discharge of their mandates, take into account the need to promote the democratization of the system of international governance in order to increase the effective participation of developing countries in international decision-making; to promote effective partnerships such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and other similar initiatives with developing countries, particularly the least developed countries, for the purpose of the realization of their right to development, including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; to strive for greater acceptance, operationalization and realization of the right to development at the international level, while urging all States to undertake at the national level the necessary policy formulation and to institute the measures required for implementation of the right to development as an integral part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and also urging all States to expand and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in ensuring development and eliminating obstacles to development in the context of promoting effective international cooperation for the realization of the right to development; the General Assembly also asked the WG and its Chair/Rapporteur to consider ways and means to continue to ensure the operationalization of the right to development as a priority; and to mainstream the right to development in the policies and operational activities of the United Nations and the specialized agencies, funds and programmes, as well as in the policies and strategies of the international financial and multilateral trading systems.

Both the Human Rights Council, in its resolution 24/4, and the General Assembly expressed support to the Working Group for having launched the process of considering, revising and refining the draft right to development criteria and corresponding operational sub-criteria, with the first reading of the draft criteria. The Council also endorsed the recommendations of the Working Group at its 14th session and decided that the Working Group will continue, at its 15th session, its work on the consideration of the draft operational sub-criteria, with the first reading of the remaining operational sub-criteria.

The Council once again acknowledged the need for contributions by experts and, in this respect, re-emphasized the importance of engaging further and inviting to the 15th session of the Working Group experts from relevant UN agencies, funds and programmes and institutions, as well as other multilateral institutions and forums, international organizations and other relevant stakeholders.

In accordance with the Working Group’s recommendation contained in paragraph 48 (d) of the report on its 15th session, as endorsed by the Human Rights Council in paragraph 10 (d) of resolution 24/4, I held two rounds of informal consultations in preparation for the informal inter-sessional meeting of the Working Group and its 15th session. I met separately and jointly, with Coordinators of regional and political groups, as well as with representatives of UN System organisations and specialized agencies, and non-governmental organisations.

In addition, on the occasion of the General Assembly, I had the opportunity to hold informal consultations in New York with representatives of political groups, intergovernmental organisations and UN programmes. I met with representatives of NAM, the EU, the G77, the UN Environment Programme, the World Food Programme, and UNDP, as well as with the World Bank. I shall be reporting on these consultations later on this morning / afternoon.

In accordance with the Working Group’s request to further efforts to encourage the active participation of all relevant stakeholders in the work of the Working Group, I wrote to all United Nations departments, bodies, funds and programmes, specialized agencies, international financial and multilateral trading institutions and to several NGOs inviting them to participate in the inter-sessional meeting of the Working Group and its 15th session. The OHCHR Civil Society Unit, UNOG NGO Liaison Unit and UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service also sent out invitations to NGOs.

To date the secretariat has received confirmation of participation at the present session of the Working Group from ITU, UNAIDS, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNRISD, WIPO, WMO and WTO.

By resolution 24/4, the Human Rights Council also decided to convene a two-day informal inter-sessional intergovernmental meeting of the Working Group with the participation of States, groups of States and relevant United Nations agencies, funds and programmes and institutions, as well as other multilateral institutions and forums, and international organizations and other relevant stakeholders, with a view to improve the effectiveness of the Working Group at its 15th session.

In conformity with that request, the Working Group held an informal inter-sessional meeting last month, from 3 to 4 April. I shall be reporting on that meeting in more detail later this morning. I take this opportunity to thank all delegations for their continued support and engagement during the inter-sessional meeting, as well as during the informal consultations in Geneva and New York.

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,

The Working Group has, this morning, endorsed a draft programme of work for this session within the framework of its overall mandate to monitor and review progress made in the promotion and implementation of the right to development as elaborated in the Declaration on the Right to Development, at the national and international levels, providing recommendations thereon and further analyzing obstacles to its full enjoyment, and in line with the specific task entrusted to it for the present session, (i.e., continue its work on the consideration of the draft operational sub-criteria with the first reading of the remaining operational sub-criteria).

At its 13th session, held in May 2012, the Working Group successfully completed its first reading of the draft criteria, gathering views thereon, proposing refinements, and formulating proposals for additional criteria. Its work was aided by the detailed views and comments received in writing from Governments, groups of governments, regional groups, UN agencies, funds and programmes and institutions, as well as from other multilateral institutions and fora. The Group was also assisted in its reflections by the active participation, during the session, of representatives of UN funds and programmes, international institutions, NGOs, and indigenous peoples groups. The views expressed by Member States and relevant stakeholders on the draft criteria during the 13th session are contained in conference room papers 2 and 3 that were submitted to the Working Group at its 14th session.

At its 14th session, held in May 2013, the Working Group concluded its first reading of the draft operational sub-criteria under attribute 1, entitled Comprehensive and human-centred development policy. The views expressed by Member States and relevant stakeholders on the right to development operational sub-criteria during its 14th session are contained in conference room papers 1 and 2 that are before the Working Group at its present session.

The present session will focus on the first reading of the draft operational sub-criteria under attribute 2, entitled Participatory human rights processes and attribute 3, Social justice in development.

Allow me to recall that the review of the draft right to development criteria and operational sub-criteria is part of a broader and longer-term process decided upon by the Human Rights Council and underlined by the General Assembly. In its latest resolution 24/4, the Human Rights Council, once again, reiterated its decision:

(a) To continue to act to ensure that its agenda promotes and advances sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and, in this regard, lead to raising the right to development, as set out in paragraphs 5 and 10 of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, to the same level and on a par with all other human rights and fundamental freedoms;

(b) That the criteria and corresponding operational sub-criteria mentioned in paragraph 5 above, once considered, revised and endorsed by the Working Group, should be used, as appropriate, in the elaboration of a comprehensive and coherent set of standards for the implementation of the right to development; and

(c) That the Working Group shall take appropriate steps to ensure respect for and practical application of the above-mentioned standards, which could take various forms, including guidelines on the implementation of the right to development, and evolve into a basis for consideration of an international legal standard of a binding nature through a collaborative process of engagement.

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,

Judging from the progress made over the past two sessions, I am optimistic that it will be possible to complete the first reading of all draft right to development criteria and operational sub-criteria at this session. While this, by itself, is a major achievement, we should not lose sight of the fact, that this is only the first reading and that most of the language before us is within brackets.

We have a busy schedule and challenging week ahead of us! I am confident that we can not only complete the first reading, but also proceed forward with effectively discharging our mandate – with the ultimate goal and vision of making the right to development a reality for all. A number of proposals were made at the intersessional meeting of the Working Group to improve the effectiveness of the present session. These proposals remain on the table and it is my hope that, following past tradition, the Group’s conclusions and recommendations at its present session will be adopted by consensus.

It is appropriate to recall the context in which our meeting is taking place. We are facing an unprecedented global crisis that is multidimensional and systemic in character, manifesting itself in rising inequalities, exploitation, and social injustice, posing a threat to international peace and security, as well as the ability of our planet to sustain life.

`Recent data reveal that inequalities are rising everywhere, within and between countries, unequally affecting those countries that are more closely integrated in the global market and less resilienct to external shocks. There is also increasing recognition that inequality is a key issue that was neglected in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which focussed on average levels of achievement.

According to a recent UNDP study, the top 20% of the world’s population enjoys more than 70% of global income, the bottom 20% only 2 percent. The richest 1% has accumulated 43% of global wealth, with 2% owning more than half, and the bottom 80% has just 6%. In terms of numbers, today, the richest 300 people on earth have as much wealth as the poorest 3 billion, almost half the world’s population.

Statistics, however, are only part of the story. Behind the cold figures is the reality of injustices, human tragedies, misery, and denied dignity.

The need for collective action has become more than ever urgent. The post-2015 development agenda provides the Working Group an opportunity not just to be a bystander in a process that engages the responsibility ofthe entire international community and the UN system. With the specific mandate to promote a vision of development based on the principles of equality, non-discrimination, social justice, participation, accountability and solidarity, at national and international levels, and international cooperation and the mandate also to mainstream the right to development in the policies and operational activities of the United Nations, the Working Group can contribute significantly to the collective efforts of the international community by advancing the framework for an alternative vision of society.

In conclusion, may I, once again,underline the importance of forging a vision and purpose in moving forward, and ensuring that we maintain our momentum and seeing this work through to its conclusion. I am confident that we will be able make progress, and trust in your continued support

I thank you for your attention.