The essential elements of a legally binding instrument on the right to development

Presented to the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development in a statement by the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on 18 May 2021

The Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development is of the opinion that a legally binding instrument aiming at the effective operationalization and full implementation of the right to development should contain as a minimum the following elements:

  • A reaffirmation of the Declaration on the Right to Development, adopted by the General Assembly on 4 December 1986;
  • A further codification of the right to development as a legally binding human right held by individuals and peoples that entitles them to active, free and meaningful participation in development, and in the fair distribution of benefits therefrom;
  • An elaboration of the three levels of State obligations that the right to development entails. State obligations at these three levels pertain to:
    • States acting individually as they formulate national development policies and programmes affecting persons within their jurisdiction;
    • States acting individually as they adopt and implement policies that affect persons not strictly within their jurisdiction; and
    • States acting collectively in global and regional partnerships.
  • An elaboration of the universal duty of everyone, including legal persons, to respect human rights, including the right to development;
  • A recognition of the mutually reinforcing nature of the right to development and the right to self-determination, including the right of each State to regulate, free from coercion, for the respect, protection and fulfilment of the right to development;
  • A reconfirmation that the right to development must be realized in a manner compatible with all other human rights, and is grounded in the principles of accountability, empowerment, participation, non-discrimination, equality and equity;
  • An acknowledgment that the right to development cannot be realized if development is unsustainable;
  • An elaboration of the duty to cooperate as a key component in the establishment of a social and international order conducive to the realization of the right to development. The duty to cooperate for the realization of the right to development applies among States and between States and other stakeholders, including intergovernmental organizations and economic actors;
  • The inclusion of provisions that foster the ability of grassroots organizations to use the right to development at both national and international levels;
  • The establishment of a Conference of States parties offering broad access to all stakeholders. The Conference of the Parties should be empowered to discuss obstacles to the realization of the right to development and to recommend and adopt protocols on measures to address such obstacles;
  • The inclusion of an implementation mechanism able to examine requests by rights holders and States parties to review obstacles to the realization of the right to development that arise from the failure to comply with the duty to cooperate.


Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development
Thematic studies
Sessions of the Expert Mechanism
Others involved
Contact information

EMRTD, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
OHCHR-emrtd@un.org