International Standards

International human rights law provides a clear and universal framework for the promotion and protection of the right to development. The right to development is enshrined by the following standards:

  • United Nations Charter

    Already in 1945, the UN Charter (articles 1, 55 and 56) established the foundations of the right to development, by stating that the creation of conditions of stability and well-being are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and by mandating the UN to promote: higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development; solutions to international economic, social, health, and related problems; international cultural and educational cooperation; and universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.

  • Universal Declaration on Human Rights

    The Universal Declaration on Human Rights contains a number of elements that are related to the right to development: it contains the concepts of promotion of social progress and better standards of life, recognizes the right to non-discrimination, the right to participate in public affairs and the right to an adequate standard of living. It also contains everyone's entitlement to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration can be fully realized (article 28).

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

    Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that '[a] ll peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.' Furthermore it states that '[a] ll peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources … In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.'

  • Other global documents of major importance:

    Rio Declaration on Environment and Development: The right to development was reaffirmed in 1992 in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, in which it is stated that the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations (principle 3).

    Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VD): In paragraph 10 of part I of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VD), adopted by consensus in 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights reaffirmed the right to development as a universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights. It also reaffirmed that least developed countries committed to the process of democratization and economic reforms should be supported by the international community in order to succeed in their transition to democracy and economic development. The VD further stated that the right to development should be fulfilled so as to meet equitably the developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations. With regard to implementation, the VD stated the needs for: the formulation of effective national development policies and equitable international economic relations (para. 10); effective international cooperation (paras. 10 and 13); and international support for countries committed to the process of democratization and economic reforms (para. 9). It also emphasized the importance of removing obstacles to development, among others: human rights violations, racism, colonialism and foreign occupation; and of increasing the resources devoted to development.

    UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: The preamble of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (A/RES/61/295) makes explicit reference to the right to development, expressing concern that “indigenous peoples have suffered from historic injustices as a result of, inter alia, their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests”. Under article 23 of the Declaration, indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. They have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.

    UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas: Article 3.2 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (A/RES/73/165) also explicitly states that “[p]easants and other people working in rural areas have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies to exercise their right to development”. The right to the development of peoples can also be found in the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (No. 169) of the International Labour Organization.

  • International policy framework

    "Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" (A/RES/70/1)

    In 2015, the right to development was explicitly recognized in four key internationally agreed policy documents:

    1. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (General Assembly resolution 69/313, annex);
    2. In the opening paragraph of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, it is stated that its parties are committed to respecting all human rights, including the right to development. The document refers to human rights and fundamental freedoms, along with good governance, the rule of law and access to justice as integral to the cross-cutting commitment to promote peaceful and inclusive societies — language similar to that used in Sustainable Development Goal 16.

    3. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (General Assembly resolution 69/283, annex II);
    4. In the guiding principles for the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (para. 19 (c) of the Framework), it is stated that managing the risk of disasters is aimed at protecting persons and their property, health, livelihoods and productive assets, as well as cultural and environmental assets, while promoting and protecting all human rights, including the right to development.

    5. “Transforming our world: the Agenda for Sustainable Development”;
    6. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the biggest contemporary policy document where a tangible link is made between the right to development and sustainability. The Agenda is to be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the rights and obligations of States under international law. The key principles of the Declaration on the Right to Development are reaffirmed throughout the Agenda, which recognizes the need to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies that are based on respect for human rights (including the right to development), on effective rule of law and good governance at all levels and on transparent, effective and accountable institutions.

    7. The Paris Agreement on climate change (FCCC/CP/2015/10/Add.1, decision 1/CP.21, annex)
    8. In the preamble of the Paris Agreement it is stated that the parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, including the right to development.

  • Regional Agreements

    Charter of the Organization of American States: Article 33 of the Charter of the Organization of American States reads that development is a primary responsibility of each country and should constitute an integral and continuous process for the establishment of a more just economic and social order that will make possible and contribute to the fulfilment of the individual.

    African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: The 53 States parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights are legally bound to ensure the exercise of the right to development, which is included in article 22 of that Charter. The right to development is also recognized in article 10 of the African Youth Charter and article 19 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

    Arab Charter on Human Rights (adopted in Cairo on 15 September 1994): Under article 37 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights States are required to establish development policies and take the measures needed to guarantee that right; States parties have a duty to give effect to the values of solidarity and cooperation among them and at the international level with a view to eradicating poverty and achieving economic, social, cultural and political development; and by virtue of the right to development, every citizen has the right to participate in the realization of development and to enjoy the benefits and fruits thereof.

    Human Rights Declaration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (adopted by the Heads of State/Government of ASEAN Member States, 18 November 2012): Article 37 of the Human Rights Declaration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations calls upon member States to mainstream the multidimensional aspects of the right to development into the relevant areas of Association of Southeast Asian Nations community.