12 May 2014
In accordance with the Working Group’s recommendation contained in paragraph 48 (d) of the report on its 14h 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.
The consultations were held in September 2013 on the occasion of the presentation of the Working Group’s report to the 24th session of the Human Rights Council, and in December 2013 on the occasion of the launch of the OHCHR publication Realizing the Right to Development: Essays in Commemoration of 25 Years of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development.
On those occasions, I met, separately and jointly, with the Coordinators of regional and political groups, including the NAM, the OIC and the EU. I also met with representatives of UN System organisations and specialized agencies, as well as with representatives of non-governmental organizations.
In addition, I held informal consultations in New York with representatives of political groups and UN system organizations on the occasion of the presentation of the Working Group’s report to the General Assembly in October 2013,.
During my meetings with the Coordinators of the regional and political groups, there was general agreement on the draft programme of work for the 15th session of the Working Group, on the methodology to be adopted in reviewing the remainder of the draft right to development operational sub-criteria, and on the need to invite United Nations system organizations to contribute actively to the work of the Working Group.
The main concern raised was how to most effectively utilise the time of the Working Group should it complete its first reading before the end of its 15th session.
In this regard, groups of States representing developing countries stated that, in line with the mandate assigned to it by the Human Rights Council to consider, revise and refine the draft right to development criteria and corresponding operational sub-criteria, the Group should proceed with the second reading. Others expressed the view that the measurability element must first be clarified.
Some of the concerns raised by member States related to the overall orientation of the Working Group. The question was raised whether the review exercise was indeed expedient for elaborating a legally binding instrument. In this respect, the suggestion was made that the Group engage in a broader discussion on the way forward, on how best to achieve the ultimate goal. In addition, the suggestion was made that the Working Group consider adopting a position on the right to development for incorporation in the post-2015 development agenda.
Representatives of United Nations system organizations that I met were generally supportive of constructive and active engagement in the work of the Working Group, but emphasized the importance of clarifying their role in this process, taking into account that they received their mandates from their respective governing bodies.
They all agreed that staff officers, especially at senior levels, needed to be better informed and made aware of the content of the right to development as it is defined in the Declaration, so that they are in a position to relate their respective field of work to the right to development.
During my meeting with representatives of non-governmental organizations, the importance of paying particular attention to the problem of unilateral coercive measures was underlined. Suggestions were also made on how to improve the effectiveness of their participation in the work of the Working Group and, in this regard, it was suggested that modalities be put in place for the participation of indigenous peoples, given that they cannot be considered as civil society actors, and ways be found to integrate youth concerns more concretely into the draft right to development criteria.
Some of these issues were also raised at the informal inter-sessional meeting, which was held from 3 to 4 April 2014, in accordance with HRC resolution 24/4. In paragraph 10 (f) of that resolution, the Council requested the Working Group “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.”
At the outset of the inter-sessional meeting, I drew the attention of the Working Group to the specific task entrusted to it for the 15th session. As recommended by the Working Group at its 14th session and endorsed by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 24/4, the Group would “continue … consideration of the draft operational sub-criteria, with the first reading of the remaining operational sub-criteria,” I informed the Working Group that some 58 draft operational sub-criteria remained to be considered, at the end of which, it would have completed its first reading of the draft criteria and corresponding operational sub-criteria before it.
In this connection, I reminded the Working Group that the specific task entrusted to it for its 15th session must be conducted within the larger framework of the mandate given to it by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 4/4 of March 2007 and in successive resolutions – to consider, revise and refine the draft right to development criteria and corresponding operational sub-criteria.
By the same resolutions, the Human Rights Council had determined that, once considered, revised and endorsed by the Working Group, the criteria and corresponding operational sub-criteria should be used, as appropriate, in the elaboration of a comprehensive and coherent set of standards for the implementation of the right to development. The Council had also determined 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.
At the same time, I reminded the Working Group of the original mandate given to it by Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/72, in which it was requested to, inter alia, 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 analysing obstacles to its full enjoyment, focusing each year on specific commitments in the Declaration.
During the intersessional meeting, several proposals were made with a view to improve the effectiveness of the Working Group at its 15th session. However, no agreement was reached. On the second day of the informal intersessional meeting of the Working Group, many developing country representatives expressed concern that the other side had accepted none of the proposals by NAM. In this context, the representative of Egypt requested the Secretariat to clarify the voting procedure in the Working Group and a representative of OHCHR informed the Group of the applicable rules of procedure. During the ensuing discussion, the representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of NAM, agreed that, while achieving consensus must be the aim, voting might become necessary if, despite all efforts, consensus cannot be reached.
The following proposals were made during the intersessional meeting :
Proposal 1: Proceed with the second reading
The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of NAM, proposed that the Working Group, after completion of the 1st reading of the draft right to development criteria and operational sub-criteria, proceed to its 2nd reading, in accordance with the mandate given to the Working Group by the Human Rights Council to consider, revise and refine the criteria and sub-criteria with a view to their endorsement. Consequently, NAM proposed that, at its 15th session, the Group recommend to the Human Rights Council that it proceed to the 2nd reading at its 16th session, and, in this regard, flagged the need for more time to be allocated to the Working Group.
Responding to this proposal, representatives of the EU, the USA and Switzerland expressed the view that the issue of measurability of the draft operational sub-criteria must be clarified before proceeding to the 2nd reading, and that it was too early to discuss the conclusions and recommendations of the Group’s 15th session, thus prejudging it’s outcome.
The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the NAM, and the representatives of Cuba, Pakistan and Algeria disagreed with this position on the following grounds. They pointed out (1) that the Working Group does not have a mandate to discuss indicators, (2) that the high-level task force had gone beyond its mandate by considering and proposing indicators, and (3) that, in no case, a subject that is outside the mandate of the Working Group, in this case the question of indicators, can be used as a condition for the fulfilment of a mandate given to the Working Group by the Human Rights Council.
Pakistan and Indonesia suggested that the issue of measurability be considered simultaneously with the 2nd reading, reasoning that the methodology adopted by the Working Group for the 1st reading will permit discussion on each proposal as it is made.
Representatives of non-governmental organisations expressed the view that the question of measurability would arise only in the implementation phase; and that, given the subjective character of the right to development, indicators must be determined by the people themselves at the local and national levels and must be based on their specific needs and requirements. In this connection, a collective of non-governmental organisations proposed a compromise solution: proceed immediately with the 2nd reading, while simultaneously conducting a parallel debate on indicators using input from an experimental project in the field that would seek to apply the proposed criteria and sub-criteria, and feedback from an expert group set up for the purpose.
Proposal 2: Integration of the right to development in the post-2015 development agenda
The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the NAM, and representatives of Sri Lanka and Egypt proposed an exchange of ideas on the integration of the right to development within the post-2015 development agenda. The representative of South Africa underlined the importance of supporting a right to development approach in discussions on the post -2015 development agenda, as opposed to the human rights-based approach to development, which focused on civil and political rights.
The representatives of the EU, the USA, the UK and Switzerland argued against linking the ongoing work of the Working Group with the post-2015 development agenda. They expressed the view that the on-going inter-governmental discussions in New York should not be prejudged and that the Working Group should not duplicate or confound the ongoing process. They argued that respect and promotion of all human rights, not just the right to development, was crucial to the post-2015 development agenda.
Responding to this position, the representatives of Cuba, Iran, Tunisia, Algeria and the Association of World Citizens pointed out that many Human Rights Council resolutions did, indeed, contain explicit language on the post-2015 development agenda. As for duplicating the on-going process in New York, they argued that the Working Group would rather contribute to the more general discussions in New York by being more specific, and the Group’s input in NY would be welcome, indeed sought for.
Proposal 3: Send a follow-up invitation letter to UN System organisation and specialised agencies
The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of NAM, made a third proposal with regard to input from UN System organisations and specialised agencies. While keeping in mind that completion of the 1st reading is the priority of the Working Group, the Secretariat could send a letter of invitation to them requesting that, when making their contributions on the draft criteria and sub-criteria, they relate their activities also to the post-2015 development agenda.
The representatives of the EU, USA and the UK argued against the proposal. They expressed the view that UN System organisations and agencies should be free to decide on the content of their contributions, and that the scope of their input should not be restricted to the post-2015 development agenda. General letters of invitation may be sent if they had not been sent already. If specific language was to be used at all, then the experts from the UN System should also be asked to express their views on indicators.
The representative of Switzerland proposed, as a compromise, that the letter inform experts that they should feel free to answer questions posed by Member States, including on integrating the right to development in the post-2015 development agenda.
Proposal 4: The need to adopt a systemic approach
The representatives of Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka expressed the view that there was lack of political will to join together internationally to implement the Declaration on the Right to Development, and that, therefore, it was important to adopt a systemic approach that would permit discussions on the international system, the need for an enabling environment and the identification of obstacles at the international level.
Proposal 6: participation of indigenous peoples organisations
The representative of the Indian Council of South America underlined the importance of establishing a process whereby indigenous peoples can participate in the work of the Working Group on an equal basis, taking into account their special status as representing peoples with the right to self-determination.
Proposal 7: a special place for youth participation
A representative of a youth organization proposed that a privileged place be accorded for youth participation in the Group’s work, given their importance in society with special responsibility for the future of humanity.
Proposal 8: a compilation of all proposals and comments made during the review process
The representative of a collective of NGOs proposed that the Working Group request the secretariat to issue, at its 15th session, a document containing a compilation of all the proposals and comments made during the review process of the draft criteria and operational sub-criteria, including proposals for additional criteria and sub-criteria.
I thank you for your attention!