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Statement by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the High-level segment of the General Assembly

Commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the
Declaration on the Right to Development

22 September 2016

Distinguished Secretary-General,
Distinguished President of the General Assembly,
Excellencies,
Colleagues and Friends,

Thirty years ago, the international community made a powerful series of commitments to change the world. They agreed that development is about rights, and is itself a human right, and must rest on greater empowerment and freedom for every individual, as well as greater accountability for every State. The Declaration on the Right to Development stands squarely for the fair distribution of the benefits of development without any form of discrimination; and for the right of all individuals and peoples to freely and fully participate in decision-making. It also calls for a new world order in which all rights and freedoms can be realised, with far greater equality of opportunity for both individuals and nations.

As the Declaration makes clear, nations and economies thrive when they promote the full potential of every individual. Conversely, massive inequalities and the exclusion and oppression of marginalised groups stifle development and drive much of the unrest and conflict that has swept across many regions in recent years. This is why I urge all stakeholders to approach the 30th anniversary of the Declaration with a real sense of urgency. And it is why my Office has so vigorously promoted human rights approaches throughout the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development ¬ ensuring it is firmly grounded in the Declaration on the Right to Development and its promise of international cooperation to eliminate obstacles to development. Here, I am pleased to announce that the Working Group on Human Rights of the United Nations Development Group has issued a joint statement today in support of the Right to Development.

The right to development is clearly the normative core of the entire 2030 Agenda. Its primary theme – "leaving no one behind" – is an affirmation of equality and universality. It recognizes the responsibility of the State, but also of the private sector and the international community. Above all, the Agenda acknowledges that development can only be real and sustainable if it is grounded in good governance, both national and international; equality, both within and between States; and the public freedoms which enable civil society to contribute and thrive.

To safeguard the world's peoples, and reverse the current course of multiplying conflicts, it will be essential to implement this vision with all deliberate speed. As Sustainable Development Goal 17 makes clear, we must revitalise global partnerships.

We need real change at the level of the international trade and financial institutions, with far stronger human rights safeguards built in to all aspects of their activity and funding. All other elements of globalization - commerce, investment, intellectual property, and the movement of people - must also be made compatible with human rights standards.

Just days ago, the Summit on Refugees and Migrants highlighted the grave and growing danger of denying the rights of people on the move. The 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development must remind us that vulnerable and marginalized people – including migrants, indigenous peoples and other minorities, as well as persons with disabilities, have a right to development, and that the true purpose of any economic endeavour is to improve the well-being of people, not to build towers of individual wealth upon their labour.

There is more than enough wealth in the world to eliminate poverty. Globally, it is persistent discrimination, failures of inclusion, corruption and other drivers of inequalities that deprive millions of people of their rights to a fair share of resources and equal opportunities. They form a nexus of violations that erode world peace and stability.

I want to emphasize the importance of civil society actors in assisting this process. Civil society organisations can raise awareness, both among national stakeholders and the general public, about the content of the right to development and the opportunities that it presents. They can play a key role in identifying and assisting victims of violations, and in alerting the world to their plight. Yet in many countries, civil society actors are working under increasing pressure and constraint. We must do everything we can to push back these restrictions and widen the space for civil society organisations to continue their valuable activity in advancing the right to development, and all human rights for all of us.