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The Declaration on the Right to Development


04 December 1986


The Declaration on the Right to Development defines development as "an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are 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." (Article 1)

Basic requirements of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development:

  • putting people at the centre of development
  • ensuring free, active and meaningful participation
  • securing non-discrimination
  • fairly distributing the benefits of development
  • respecting self-determination, and sovereignty over natural resources
  • all in a process that advances other civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights

A right that addresses contemporary challenges

Born at the end of the colonial era, the Declaration on the Right to Development remains highly relevant today. The right to development embodies the human rights principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation, transparency and accountability as well as international cooperation. These, along with the basic requirements of the Declaration can guide our responses to a series of contemporary issues and challenges, including climate change and the quest for sustainable development, global public health emergencies, development cooperation and solidarity, debt relief, illicit financial flows, technology transfer, trade and investment, the democratic deficit, weak governance and the need to reform international financial institutions.

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.