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Opening statement by Ms. Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights at the Working Group on the Right to Development The seventeenth annual session

Geneva 25 April 2016
Palais des Nations, Salle XVI

Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to join you at the opening of the seventeenth session of the Working Group on the Right to Development.

The High Commissioner sends his warmest greetings.  He would have very much liked to attend this opening today had his travel schedule permitted and he has asked me to convey to you and to the Working Group his continued and full support in advancing the right to development.

Although celebrated today under the shadow of the many crises facing the world, this 30th Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development delivers to us new children of its hope and promise: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development and the Paris Climate Agreement are born too of the right to development, and in these we have new impetus to deliver on the Right to Development and we must be made newly accountable for that delivery.

The signs that we can transform peoples’ enjoyment of the right to development are all around us. By the end of last year, the number of people living in extreme poverty around the world likely fell to under 10 percent. This points to the extraordinary opportunity and deep responsibility of the truth that we are the first generation in all of human history that can end extreme poverty.

But to do that, we must also tackle inequality. For despite record economic growth, millions of people have been left behind, millions left out.  Development’s progress quite simply is uneven.

Persistent poverty and deepening inequalities are major threats development, to human rights and thus to peace and security too.

Violence – in Syria, Iraq, Burundi, Ukraine, Yemen – is destroying development’s hard won gains, killing hundreds of thousands of people and forcibly displaced millions from their homes.

This too is the business of the declaration on the right to development.  For fully realized, it is a right that offers much needed prevention - it can address root causes and it can help meet structural challenges at all levels. 

And at the international level too – where some of those challenges originate in our failure to regulate globalization sufficiently. The engines of globalization - trade, investment, finance, and intellectual property and the movement of people - must be made compatible with the human rights obligations of States. Global development cannot mean that people are denied their access to essential medicines. That small-land-holding farmers are denied fair earnings. That the impoverished are further trapped in countries with unsustainable debt.

This is a special year as we celebrate both the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development and the 50th anniversary of the International Covenants on Human Rights.

The Declaration on the Right to Development was a milestone in reuniting the rights contained in the two covenants, in underlining the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights. Central to the right to development is also the full realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, a right which figures prominently as the first article in both covenants.

After all, human rights are inter-dependent, as indivisible as they are universal -  are matter of “bread and ballots” as the incomparable Nelson Mandela reminded us.  People who are hungry are not people who are free.  Nor is freedom merely the absence of iron bars or prison walls. The prison of prejudice, the prison of bigotry, as with the prison of poverty, confines freedom, stymies human talent and creativity and thus are always a threat to development.

Like the Declaration itself, the 2030 Agenda’s promise is “to leave no one behind” starting first where ever possible with those “furthest behind”.  It pledges us to ensuring that SDG targets are met “for all nationals and peoples and for all segments of society”.

The 2030 Agenda is a child of the right to development. As such, it must not be stunted by indifferent action, malnourished by failed commitments or denied safe passage to its fullest realization just because of the inconvenience of what undoubtedly are its tough but needed demands.

I am very pleased to see that you will hold an interactive dialogue with the two former co-facilitators for the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-20l5 development agenda, Ambassadors David Donoghue and Macharia Kamau.

I have also noted with interest the standards for the implementation of the right to development, proposed by Ambassador Zamir Akram, the Chair-Rapporteur of this Working Group.

Of particular relevance to this Working Group will be the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals indicators by the ECOSOC and GA later this year, and the voluntary national reviews at the High-level Political Forum starting in July.

With a busy schedule ahead, it is my sincere hope that you will have a successful session. In this, we commit the full support of the Office, and I wish you all success in your deliberations and outcome.

Thank you very much.