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The world needs a new model of planet-centred participatory development: UN expert

20 September 2023

GENEVA (20 September 2023) – The current development model leaves too many people behind and ignores the planetary boundaries, a UN expert said today, calling for a new model of planet-centred participatory development.

“The right to development is a universal human right for everyone, everywhere. However, several ongoing challenges – including conceptual confusion, limited capacities, polarisation, lack of participation, inequalities and the neocolonial and neoliberal order – undermine the ability of States, businesses and other actors to realise the right to development fully,” said Surya Deva, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development.

In his report to the 54th session of the Human Rights Council, Deva said that there are also problematic practices that tend to focus on cumulative economic development, adopt a sequencing mindset between economic development and the fulfilment of human rights, or ignore the adverse impact of economic development on the environment.

“These practices are inconsistent with the contours of the right to development set out in the Declaration on the Right to Development, the Rio Declaration and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action,” the expert said.

Multiple inequalities within and among States are another major challenge, he noted. Many States, in particular least developed and small island developing countries, face serious capacity issues in mobilising or accessing the necessary resources to realise the right to development. He said that corporate tax evasion, illicit financial flows and the growing public debt also undermine States’ financial capability.

To overcome these challenges, the Special Rapporteur said we should leverage the role of multiple actors, build bridges and partnerships, ensure inclusive participation, adopt an intersectional approach and move towards a model of planet-centred participatory development.

“While active, free and meaningful participation of people in decision-making processes is a key element of the right to development, States and other actors rarely ensure such participation. The lack of participation, especially of vulnerable or marginalised individuals and groups, often leads to the unequal sharing of economic benefits, forced displacement of communities, social divisions, environmental pollution, loss of biodiversity and persecution of human rights defenders,” the expert said.

The right to development is a pathway to the fulfilment of all other human rights and fundamental freedoms, he said.

“Peoples and States that were victims of colonisation deserve financial and technological support, not as charity, but as part of a duty of cooperation and international solidarity,” Deva said.

The Special Rapporteur called on States, national human rights institutions, UN agencies, development partners, public development banks, businesses, universities and civil society organisations to keep the right to development central to realise the Sustainable Development Goals and to operationalise the idea of a human rights economy and the Summit of the Future. “Only then can inclusive, equitable and sustainable development be achieved,” he said.


*Mr. Surya Deva took up the role of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development on 1 May 2023. Deva is a Professor at the Macquarie Law School and Director of the Centre for Environmental Law at Macquarie University, Australia. He conducts research in the areas of business and human rights, comparative constitutional law, international human rights law, sustainable development, climate change, and gender equality. Deva served as a member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (2016-22). He has advised UN agencies, governments, national human rights institutions, multinational corporations, trade unions and civil society organisations on issues related to business and human rights.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests please contact: Antoanela Pavlova ([email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts; see news related to the Special Rapporteur on the right to development on @UNSRdevelopment.

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