“We, heads of State and Government, … are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want.”
UN Millennium Declaration

Right to Development

Development is a Human Right

Development is a human right

Everyone is “entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized,” the groundbreaking UN Declaration on the Right to Development proclaimed in 1986 that development is a right that belongs to everyone.

It belongs to everyone

A fisherman casting a net in Niamey, Niger. @Jan HoffmannLike all human rights, the right to development belongs to everyone, individually and collectively, with no discrimination and with their participation. The Declaration recognizes the right to self-determination and to full sovereignty over natural wealth and resources.

The pursuit of economic growth is not an end in itself. The right to development puts people at the centre of the development process, which aims to improve “the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution” of the resulting benefits.

The year 2011 marks the Declaration’s 25th anniversary. Yet many children, women and men – the very subjects of development – still live in dire need of the fulfilment of their entitlement to a life of dignity, freedom and equal opportunity. This directly affects the realization of a wide range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

A right that addresses contemporary challenges

Workers transporting goods in Lahore, Pakistan. @Jan HoffmannWidening poverty gaps, food shortages, climate change, economic crises, armed conflicts, rising unemployment, popular unrest, and other pressing challenges confront our world today. The right to development, which embodies the human rights principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation, transparency and accountability as well as international cooperation, can guide our responses to a series of contemporary issues and challenges.

The right to development is not about charity, but enablement and empowerment. The Declaration identifies obstacles to development, empowers individuals and peoples, calls for an enabling environment and good governance at both national and international levels, and enhances accountability of duty bearers - governments, donors and recipients, international organizations, transnational corporations, and civil society.

Act together now

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called on governments and all concerned to seize the opportunity of this anniversary to move beyond political debate and focus on practical steps to implement the Declaration.

“I am duty-bound to raise this anniversary call. We must end discrimination in the distribution of the benefits of development. We must stop the 500,000 preventable deaths of women in childbirth every year. We must free the millions of children from hunger in a world of plenty. And we must ensure that people can benefit from their country’s natural resources and participate meaningfully in decision-making. These are the kind of issues addressed by the Declaration, which calls for equal opportunity and a just social order,” she said.

“States have the duty to cooperate with each other in ensuring development and eliminating obstacles to development,” says the Declaration. The United Nations Human Rights office services the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development. During this 25th anniversary in 2011, the Office also seeks to raise awareness, enhance understanding and promote dialogue on the right to development through a series of events and public information activities.

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