Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Oct17/01)
2 October 2017
Third World Network
Making right to development a reality for everyone
Published in SUNS #8540 dated 27 September 2017
Geneva, 26 Sep (Kanaga Raja) - More than 30 years after the adoption
of the Declaration on the Right to Development, business-as-usual
will not be sufficient to achieve progress, a United Nations human
rights expert has said.
In his first report to the Human Rights Council since being appointed
to the new mandate of Special Rapporteur on the right to development,
Mr Saad Alfarargi (of Egypt) said that in order to ensure the implementation
of the Declaration, there is need to re-invigorate the advocacy process.
In a landmark resolution adopted at its thirty-third session in September
2016, the Council decided to establish the mandate of the Special
Rapporteur on the right to development for a period of three years.
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur includes amongst others to contribute
"to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the right to
development" in the context of the coherent and integrated implementation
of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other internationally
agreed outcomes of 2015.
These include the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the
Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on
Financing for Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change
(see SUNS #8324 dated 3 October 2016).
At its thirty-fourth session (27 February to 24 March 2017), the Council
appointed Saad Alfarargi as the Special Rapporteur on the right to
development and he formally took up his position on 1 May 2017.
The Council is currently holding its regular thirty-sixth session
here from 11-29 September.
In his first report to the Council, the Special Rapporteur underlined
that the right to development is not just a declaration or a topic
for political debate within the United Nations or political forums.
The reality outside these forums is that of billions of people who
are in need of improvements in their lives and who are entitled to
have their human rights, including the right to development, realized,
The particular value of the right to development is that it shifts
the focus away from statistics and goods to the well-being of people.
Only when people have access to education, when they are allowed to
work in a profession of their choice, when they have access to financial
services, health care and housing, when they can fully and fairly
participate in shaping the policies that govern their lives, are they
able to lead lives to their full potential.
The right to development brings to the discussion the paradigm of
choice - the right of every human being to participate in, to contribute
to and to enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development,
in order to achieve sustainable development.
"More than 30 years after the right to development was established
in a UN declaration, millions of people around the world are living
with the consequences of the failure to deliver it," Mr Alfarargi
said, in a UN news release.
"Negative global trends have their harshest impacts on the poorest
sections of society. People are feeling the impact of the global financial
and economic crisis, the energy and climate crisis, and an increasing
number of natural disasters."
"Add to that the new global pandemics, corruption, the privatization
of public services, austerity, and the ageing of the global population,
including in developing countries, and the effect is a harsh and worsening
impact on the poor," he added.
"We are witnessing some of the greatest challenges the world
has ever seen, without the global commitment to deliver change. People
in developing countries are paying a heavy price for global actions
beyond their control."
The Special Rapporteur said that people in Africa, in the world's
least developed countries, and in developing countries that were either
landlocked or small islands were losing out the most.
"Too many people are unaware that the right to development even
exists. We need to raise this low level of awareness, from grassroots
organisations to governments, and make sure they are all fully engaged
in implementing it."
"There is an urgent need to make the right to development a reality
for everyone," he added.
In his report, the Special Rapporteur provided some historical background
on the right to development, noting that the right to development
was first mentioned in 1966, when then-Foreign Minister of Senegal,
Doudou Thiam, referred to the right to development of the "Third
World" before the General Assembly.
Reflecting on the decades of failure of States to meet the goals of
the first United Nations Development Decade, he linked that failure
to the failure of newly decolonized States to resolve the growing
economic imbalance between the developing and developed worlds.
The Declaration on the Right to Development was adopted by the General
Assembly on 4 December 1986.
RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT IN FOUR KEY POLICY DOCUMENTS
In 2015, the right to development was explicitly recognized in four
key internationally agreed policy documents: the Addis Ababa Action
Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development;
the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030; "Transforming
our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development", which
included the Sustainable Development Goals; and the Paris Agreement
on climate change.
The Special Rapporteur noted that while the Declaration on the Right
to Development is not in itself legally binding, many of its provisions
are mirrored in legally binding instruments, such as the Charter of
the United Nations and the International Covenants on Human Rights;
and principles such as non-discrimination and State sovereignty are
also part of customary international law, which is binding on all
The 2030 Agenda is explicitly grounded in the Charter of the United
Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international
human rights treaties.
The key principles of the Declaration on the Right to Development
are reaffirmed throughout the Agenda, which recognizes the need to
build peaceful, just and inclusive societies that provide equal access
to justice and that are based on respect for human rights (including
the right to development), on effective rule of law and good governance
at all levels and on transparent, effective and accountable institutions.
"The right to development can and should be used as a guiding
concept when measuring progress in the implementation of the new policy
framework for sustainable development," said Mr Alfarargi.
"The Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity to
galvanize global and local action and resources to implement universal
goals and targets that could contribute substantially to the promotion
and implementation of the right to development."
The rights expert noted that in one of the guiding principles for
the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction
2015-2030 (para. 19 (c) of the Framework), it is stated that managing
the risk of disasters is aimed at protecting persons and their property,
health, livelihoods and productive assets, as well as cultural and
environmental assets, while promoting and protecting all human rights,
including the right to development.
People across the world are increasingly exposed to natural disasters,
the effects of which destroy development efforts and reduce entire
regions to poverty.
Poverty and vulnerability to disasters are closely linked: low-income
countries, in particular the poor and disadvantaged groups within
them, are typically more vulnerable to and disproportionately affected
"The implementation of the right to development is, therefore,
closely interlinked with disaster risk reduction," said the Special
The Special Rapporteur recalled that in the opening paragraph of the
Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Heads of State and Government and High
Representatives gathered in Addis Ababa for the Third International
Conference on Financing for Development referred to the right to development.
They specifically stated that their goal was to end poverty and hunger
and to achieve sustainable development through promoting inclusive
economic growth, protecting the environment and promoting social inclusion,
and that they committed to respecting all human rights, including
the right to development.
The Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda are closely intertwined;
the former is referred to in the latter as an integral part of the
2030 Agenda, and it has been affirmed that the full implementation
of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda is critical for the realization of
the Sustainable Development Goals and targets.
The Addis Ababa Action Agenda is explicitly linked to the means of
implementation targets established under Goal 17 and under each specific
Sustainable Development Goal, in that it is recognized as supporting,
complementing and helping to contextualize those targets.
The targets under Goal 17 operationalize the Addis Ababa Action Agenda
commitments in the areas of finance, technology, capacity-building,
trade and systemic issues.
The rights expert further said that the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change, in its assessments of climate change, which are based
on the work of hundreds of scientists from all over the world, has
repeatedly confirmed that climate change is real and that human-made
greenhouse gas emissions are its primary cause.
Extreme weather events and natural disasters, rising sea levels, floods,
heat waves, droughts, desertification, water shortages and the spread
of tropical and vector-borne diseases are some of the grim results
of climate change.
These phenomena directly and indirectly affect the enjoyment of a
range of human rights, including the rights to life, water and sanitation,
food, health, housing, self-determination and culture, as well as
the right to development.
It was recognized in the preamble of the Paris Agreement that the
parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect,
promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights,
including the right to development.
The Special Rapporteur also pointed to a raft of Human Rights Council
resolutions as well as other global, regional and national instruments
where the right to development is mentioned.
For instance, in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples, it is recognized that indigenous peoples have the right to
In article 33 of the Charter of the Organization of American States,
it is stated that development is a primary responsibility of each
country and should constitute an integral and continuous process for
the establishment of a more just economic and social order that will
make possible and contribute to the fulfilment of the individual.
The 53 States parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples'
Rights are legally bound to ensure the exercise of the right to development,
which is included in article 22 of that Charter.
In addition, the right to development is recognized in the Arab Charter
on Human Rights as a fundamental human right, while the Association
of Southeast Asian Nations Human Rights Declaration contains a section
on the right to development.
CHALLENGES TO THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT
The Special Rapporteur went on to highlight some of the major challenges
for the realization of the right to development.
The Special Rapporteur said that through informal consultations with
permanent missions, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental
organizations, he has become aware of numerous concerns that require
further study, including:
1. Politicization: Despite the fact that more than 30 years have passed
since the adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development,
views among States are still divided.
The European Union has asked for further clarity on the right. There
are disagreements on the nature of the duties of States to realize
the right to development and on the relative emphasis to be placed
on the national dimension of State obligations (individual rights
and corresponding State responsibilities, rule of law, good governance,
combating of corruption) as compared to obligations of international
cooperation (international responsibilities, international order,
development cooperation, global governance).
There are also differences of opinion among States regarding criteria
for measuring progress towards implementing the right to development.
The above conceptual differences have often resulted in a lack of
sufficient momentum in the intergovernmental debate at the relevant
United Nations forums, such as the General Assembly, the Human Rights
Council and the Working Group on the Right to Development.
2. Lack of engagement: The political divide has resulted in a low
level of engagement of United Nations agencies and civil society in
promoting, protecting and fulfilling the right to development.
The Special Rapporteur said despite the progressive evolution of the
concept of the right to development and its inclusion in some international
and regional instruments and national constitutions, the general level
of awareness and engagement for its implementation are low.
Progress in development has been uneven, particularly for people in
Africa, least developed countries, land-locked developing countries
and small island developing States, and in developing countries more
In addition, the low level of awareness of the right to development
among grassroots organizations further hampers advocacy efforts.
3. Adverse global trends: The implementation of the right to development
faces numerous other challenges: the global financial and economic
crisis, the energy and climate crisis, the increasing number of natural
disasters, the new global pandemics, the increase in automation in
many sectors, corruption, illicit financial flows, the privatization
of public services, austerity and other measures, and the ageing of
the global population, including in developing countries.
There is a growing demand for resources for the realization of the
right to development. The rise of nationalistic tendencies and the
related trend to move away from international solidarity and cooperation
may further weaken international governance.
Addressing these challenges will require the concerted effort of all
relevant stakeholders, both at national and at international levels,
THE MANDATE AND FOCUS AREAS OF WORK
The Special Rapporteur noted that the history of the implementation
of the Millennium Development Goals suggests that minorities and indigenous
peoples have progressed at a slower rate and that, for these already
disadvantaged groups, existing inequalities have been exacerbated
as others have benefited from interventions.
He said indigenous peoples, minorities, persons with disabilities
and other disadvantaged groups, in particular in developing countries,
have a stake in the implementation of the right to development and
sustainable development processes and should not be left behind.
At the same time, international and national efforts to implement
the right to development have not been successful in fully integrating
a gender perspective.
In implementing his mandate, the Special Rapporteur said that he will
advocate for the inclusion of the most disadvantaged groups in all
international and national forums linked to the implementation of
the right to development and related sustainable development processes.
He also aims to pay special attention to the gender dimension in his
work, considering, in the first instance, the developmental challenges
that women and girls face in most societies.
According to the rights expert, these challenges are many, ranging
from laws that give unequal access to land and other resources, to
development or disaster reduction policies that do not provide women
with access to education and financing to develop their businesses
or even enough food to feed their children and that do not ensure
basic services, such as health care and housing.
He noted that when establishing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur,
the Human Rights Council emphasized the urgent need to make the right
to development a reality for everyone.
The Special Rapporteur said that he sees his role as ensuring that
the right to development remains a focus in the global discourse on
the post-2015 development agenda.
Mr Alfarargi said that he will work to ensure that the right to development,
and indeed all human rights, are recognized as an integral part of
the sustainable development discourse, while emphasizing that development
should happen in accordance with human rights principles and with
the goal of achieving the realization of the right to development
for all, rather than simply for economic growth.
"While economic growth is important, it is a quantitative and
value-neutral concept that can have both negative and positive impacts
on people's lives. Development, on the other hand, is a qualitative
concept; including the human rights dimension is crucial to assessing
the actual success of human development," he said.