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Ongoing studies

Individual and Collective Dimensions of the Right to Development - Thematic study by the Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development


12 August 2024

See call for input for this study (deadline: 10 March 2024)

“The Declaration on the Right to Development describes the right to development as both an individual right of all human beings and a collective right of all peoples. The individual dimension centres on the right of every individual to participate in and benefit from development. Article 1(1) of the Declaration defines the right to 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”. The collective dimension centres on self-determination, referring to the right of peoples to determine their own economic, social, and cultural development agendas.

While the Declaration stresses that “the human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development”, it also places equal emphasis on the collective aspects of this right in several preambular recitals and operative paragraphs. Indeed, article 1 of the Declaration, which defines the right to development also stipulates that “the human right to development also implies the full realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, which includes, subject to the relevant provisions of both International Covenants on Human Rights, the exercise of their inalienable right to full sovereignty over all their natural wealth and resources”. This recognition highlights the mutually dependent and reinforcing nature of the right to development and the right to self-determination because the latter is defined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as the right of all peoples to “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.

The Declaration on the Right to Development also recognizes that States have obligations to realize the right to development of all individuals as well as peoples, including by eliminating obstacles thereto. Despite this clear emphasis, there remains a lack of clarity among some stakeholders on the precise nature, content, and scope of this right and the corresponding duties in their application to individuals and peoples. Indeed, some States and non-state actors continue to contend that they recognize the right to development only as an individual right and even question the existence of the rights of peoples in international human rights law. Some seek to justify this position on the grounds that recognizing the right to development as a collective right may be abused by States as a pretext to deny individual rights. Some others agree with the collective nature of this right but are not always clear on the definition of “peoples”, especially in its application to the right to development. Queries are often raised whether “peoples” refers to the entire population of a State or also to specific groups thereof, and if the latter, what criteria should be used to determine which groups constitute a people for the purpose of the right to development.

During its eighth session held from 30 October to 1 November 2023, the Expert Mechanism was called upon to address these questions. The Mechanism received suggestions and requests to elaborate a study exploring the individual and collective dimensions of this right and their practical implications on the duties of States and other duty-bearers. It is in this context that this study is being initiated by the Expert Mechanism.”

Issued By:

Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development


Mr. Bonny IBHAWOH (Nigeria), Mr. Mihir KANADE (India)