Skip to main content

Statements and speeches Multiple Mechanisms

Right to development a key solution to a world in crisis, says High Commissioner

13 May 2024

Delivered by

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


25th session of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development

Distinguished delegates, 
Dear participants,

I am glad to have this opportunity to address the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development. Our world is in crisis – and the right to development can contribute to far-reaching, effective solutions.

Conflicts are raging, with a profound toll on human rights, on the protection of civilians, and development for millions of people.

Poverty and hunger are spiralling out of control, with 309 million people now facing acute levels of food insecurity.

Economic disparities shot up during the pandemic, and they remain perilously high. According to the World Inequality Database, the gap between the richest 0.01% of the world and the poorest 50% is now 50% higher than it was in 2008.

Crushing debt is imposing unprecedented costs on the poorest nations, and in crucial areas such as education, access to quality healthcare and social protection, massive obstacles continue to impede people's enjoyment of their rights.

In short, the Sustainable Development Agenda – a realistic, realisable plan for massive, transformative benefit to every community on Earth – is being shattered, with profoundly negative consequences for all humanity. Instead of ending famine by 2030, it seems likely that by then, almost 600 million people will face chronic undernourishment.

Meanwhile, international cooperation and solidarity are being battered – by disputes; by an absence of trust; and by the failure to act on our shared responsibility to each other, and to future generations. Climate change is accelerating, further fuelling a triple planetary crisis that is not being adequately addressed. The unregulated development and deployment of new technologies, with no global architecture to manage and address their impact, also gravely threatens human rights.

These are unprecedented and interlocking crises – each of them preventable, and together, a catastrophe. In this context, the right to development is especially salient today, both in its broad reach and in terms of the effective solutions that it promotes.

The right to development encompasses the right of individuals and peoples to participate meaningfully and freely in development – including decisions about development – and to benefit, fairly, from development.

It rests on the imperative of equal opportunities for all people, and the equitable distribution of economic resources and opportunities – including for people who are traditionally disempowered, as well as for countries that are frequently pushed behind.

This vision requires us to confront and redress systematic injustice, exploitation and repression.

The right to development plays a crucial role in building a more peaceful, safer, more just, more generous and more prosperous world. In fostering genuine inclusion, with development that benefits everyone, it has profoundly nourished the Sustainable Development Agenda – and makes it clear that the old dichotomy that holds development as somehow separate from human rights is entirely false. On the contrary, 92% of the Sustainable Development Goals are intrinsically linked to human rights and labour standards.

In addition, the right to development provides the indispensable foundation for the human rights economy – an economy in which fiscal and budget systems prioritize the realisation of rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights; the right to development; and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment – including by ensuring that high debt repayments do not subtract from vital investments in rights. My Office’s Vision Statement emphasises these points.

In four months' time, the Summit of the Future provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity for world leaders to chart a more effective and more sustainable collective course. As part of this, my Office is committed to doing everything possible to ensure that human rights principles drive strong action for reforms – including reform of the international financial architecture. Its systemic bias in favour of rich countries, and to the detriment of rights, must be eliminated. Global financing structures must help governments to prioritize the social protections, sustainable development and climate action that are essential to us all.


Increased momentum for more effective implementation of the right to development is important to our future.

The Intergovernmental Working Group has made notable efforts to develop a Draft International Covenant on the Right to Development, which is currently before the General Assembly. My Office will continue to support discussions among Member States, and I encourage all participants to contribute to discussions in good faith, without divisive rhetoric, setting aside issues of partisan politics.

In a context of pervasive crisis, we must all seek to understand and accommodate each others' views, and to demonstrate solidarity and shared responsibility.

I wish you fruitful discussions.

Thank you.