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Making the right to development a reality for all

“I cannot overemphasize that development strategies focused too narrowly on economic growth lose sight of broader development objectives,” said UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay at a special event on the right to development and global partnership for development held in Geneva.

Children playing together © UN photo “Development should be about access to opportunities leading towards the constant improvement of human well-being, about guaranteeing the right to a life of dignity and freedom – freedom from want, freedom from fear and the freedom to flourish,” she added.

Organized in the framework of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) session, the special event was part of a series of activities that throughout 2011 will mark the 25th anniversary the UN Declaration on the Right to Development.

The event was chaired by ECOSOC Vice-President Abdul Momen and moderated by Pillay. The President of the Human Rights Council, Laura Dupuy, and Professor Henry Shue from Oxford University delivered keynote addresses followed by an interactive dialogue. Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang made closing remarks.

“The crucial question is how the realization of the right to development and, specifically, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 8 can reinforce each other and how the UN system can use these synergies in the journey towards 2015 and beyond,” Pillay said.

The MDGs are eight time-bound targets that provide concrete, numerical benchmark to reduce extreme poverty and improve living conditions by the target date of 2015. Goal 8 relates to a global partnership for development.

“I believe that the MDGs are a visible expression of the right to development. They demonstrate a commitment to translate the Declaration into concrete achievements.” said Sha Zukang. “They show a determination to promote basic economic and social rights for the most disadvantaged populations,” he added.

“Ultimately, our role is to ensure that a global partnership truly serves the aspirations of the people themselves as holders of rights and as the legitimate subjects of development,” Pillay said.

She also pointed out that the right to development, embodying the human rights principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation, transparency and accountability as well as international cooperation, could help States to formulate, adopt, and implement policies and programs for just, equitable and sustainable development for all.

“We have a moral and normative imperative to address contemporary challenges, be they the financial, economic or food crises or the impacts of climate change and environmental disasters from a human rights perspective and with the aim of realizing development for all”, said Human Rights Council President Dupuy.

“Along the road to Rio+20 we must both recall and renew the commitment of the 1992 UN Declaration on Environment and Development that human beings should be at the center of development, and that the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations,” Pillay explained.

Rio+20 is the UN conference on Sustainable Development which will take place in Brazil in 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the UN conference on Environment and Development.

“A commitment to human rights means that development must proceed and indeed increase in pace,” stressed Professor Shue in his keynote address.

The UN Human Rights office (OHCHR) seeks to enhance understanding and dialogue on the right to development through a series of events and public information activities.

18 July 2011