The Realization of Right to Development as a Human Right
In the past few decades, policy making, activism, and debates have taken a right based approach towards development influenced by the principles guiding human rights. The propitious consolidation of these two societal elements namely, ‘human rights’ and ‘development’ manifested the emergence of the ‘right to development.’ It exemplifies the notion that development is the basis of a right in itself. Intuitively it seems that the union of these key elements benefits the idea of making the world a better place, but on delving deep into the topic it calls for a nuanced assessment. It can be witnessed that at some levels of society, development causes gaps between rich and poor people. The diminishing per capita income is roughly one-third of all the countries and the people who were under viable livelihood are under poverty now. It can be said that development is adversely affecting other human rights. At this instance, it is economic, social and cultural rights. This is because it considers these rights to be consolidated in their scope and content regarding international responsibilities. Although it has limitations, at the same time it gives an added value to the overall human rights. It promotes other human rights for its optimum realization. In light of the right to development as a human right, the article determines its core norms. It examines the current legal framework and highlights its limitations. Further, it questions the value that the ‘development’ is adding to the ‘human rights.’
TABLE OF CONTENTS
With the gaining of momentum in a right based approach of the decision makings of the international community after World War II, human rights have become an important part of debates, policy making and activism in the field of development. The right based approach towards development was premised on the idea that strategies and programs should be respecting human rights. As human rights entered the dome of development, development too has become a key issue in policy making and discussions within the field of human rights. One of the implications of this is the emergence of the ‘right to development’ exemplifying the notion that development is the basis of a human right in itself.
In a very general overview, the unification of human rights seems beneficial for making the world a better place. In this process of unification, they come together and strengthen each other. On keenly examining this process a nuanced assessment is called for which considers the limitations of the unification of ‘development’ and ‘human rights’. It has been more than five decades since continuous performance of developmental activities all over the world. It improved conditions in some places and at some other places created a gap between richest person and poorest person which still continues to exist. It has impoverished millions who previously had viable livelihood.
Aruto Escobar shared his experience of overserving that “underdevelopment became the subject of political technologies that sought to erase it from the face of the earth but that ended up multiplying it to infinity”. He impliedly conveyed the result of developmental activities which were initiated with an aim to foster progressive society.
These observations give rise to questions such as: can human rights help to reorient development in ways that might have better prospects for realization of the promise of making the world a better place? Or do right based approaches towards development simply advance a venture that is failing? Or does the idea of an established ‘right to development’ serve only to weaken long established rights and duties? Can human rights can help to refocus attention on the political stakes of development strategies and programs? Or do they simply reinforce the de-politicization of issues and yet add another layer of technocratic power?
The ‘vision of development’ is generally traced from the inaugural address of U.S. President Harry S. Trueman in 1949. He had set development as one of components in his agenda for peace and freedom. He announced a program for development which was designed to make the benefits of scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. He explained, “greater production is the key to prosperity and peace. And the key to greater production is a wider and more vigorous application of modern scientific and technical knowledge”. Science and technology along with capital investments are means for providing underdeveloped countries the advantages enjoyed by the developed ones. President Trueman was empathetic about the fact that the key aim of his program for development was to strengthen United States influence and dissuade the underdeveloped countries from turning to communism. His program from development was later taken up by the United Nations as the decolonialization unfolded. A development agenda was embraced by the governments of most newly independent states.
By the last decade of 20th century, a critical vision of the development evolved. One of such critical assessment was published by Wolfgang Sachs. He denounced development as a dangerous illusion or a comforting myth. He writes, “delusion and disappointment, failures and crimes have been the steady companion of development and they tell a common story: it did not work”. Furthermore, he contends that the premise on which it is based no longer make sense. W. Sachs called into question the idea of Trueman of progress through limitless growth based on the application of science and technology. These days’ people are well aware of the environmental risks and costs of industrialization and technologies in agriculture. It is wise to reform the developed nations rather than making developed nations as models for underdeveloped nations to seek to emulate. Secondly, the context of cold war which gave rise to development no longer exists. At the same time, development assistance remains difficult to separate from the efforts of the key donors to build strategic and economic relationships, shape international trade, and strengthen particular elites within target countries. The lack of accountability to ordinary citizens and especially the poorest among them continues to mean that development activities might benefit some but do little for many more. In his third point, his experience has shown that in modernization has made conditions of life significantly worse. In his typical expression Sachs portrays “the old ways have been smashed, new ways are not viable. People are caught in the deadlock of development: the peasant who is dependent on buying seeds yet finds no cash to do so; the mother who benefits neither from the care nor from the assistance of a hospital”. Fourthly, he highlights the way development portrays people in underdeveloped regions as having only problems and needs but no agency and few resources. From this perspective, development is problematic as it fosters an image of deficiency. Instead of focusing only on what is lacking, and destroying what is there we should be paying more attention to the possibilities, energies, processes and ideas within the communities. In a more concrete sense, poor people should be stopped to be treated as consumers of initiatives developed elsewhere, and start attending strategies through which they are managing to improve their own circumstances.
These concerns are very wisely shared. For more analysts, they are reasons not to jettison the development concept but rather to rethink it and reorient the practices it has spawned. As Maggie Black explains, ‘despite the poor record of development, or indeed because of that record, ‘this is not the moment to abandon the vision of a fairer world’ which development may serve to project. “If machinery exist to address world poverty, optimism insists that it be put to better use”. In fact, approaches to development have been subjected to critics and revision from the very beginning. What has changed in recent decades is the need to confront challenges which affect not only the meaning of development, but also it ends, and not only its prescriptions, but also its premises. Efforts to reorient development to meet this challenges are reflected in a series of qualifiers which have come to be attached to the word ‘development’. Thus, ‘human development’ seeks to shift the emphasis from economic growth to social conditions, and hence from assessments based exclusively on gross national product per capita to assessments based also on social indicators. ‘sustainable development’ directs attentions to the need to avoid environmental harms, husband natural resources and considered precautionary approaches to risk. ‘Social development’ calls for moves to enhance the extent to which developmental activities benefits marginalized and vulnerable groups. And participatory development highlights the importance of involving in those affected in the framing, implementation and evaluation of development schemes. Human development has been refined and linked to sustainable, social, and participatory development in successive issues of human development report. An annual publication of the UNDP since 1990. In 2000, the title of UNDP’s Human Development Report was ‘human rights and human development’. The point to a further dimension of recent efforts to reorient development, to which we now turn.
What is the relationship between development and human rights is a major question to be discussed at this stage? On one account, respect for human rights can be an obstacle to development. This account
has been elaborated in connection with arguments about the significance for human rights of ‘Asian Value’. According to one proponent of this argument, Bilahari Kausikan, ‘experience sees order and stability as pre conditions for economic growth, and growth as the necessary foundation of any political order that claims to advance human dignity’. It follows for him that developing societies may need to postpone human rights to some extent to provide a secure, reliable and unified context within which economic development pursued. While Kaousikan proposes that this applies especially to civil and political rights such as the right to free speech, right to free assembly and constraints on preventive detention, many commentators have pointed out the economic and social rights are more commonly and comprehensively put on one side, as governments concentrate on boosting economic growth at any rate, the general point as expresses also by another exponent of the ‘Asian Values’ thesis Kishore Mahbubani, is that human rights advocates have got things the wrong way around. We need to start putting, “the horse before the cart”, he writes by “promoting economic development through good government for promoting democracy” and human rights.
In an influential book published in 1999, Amartya Sen argues that this way of approaching the relationship between development and human rights proceeds from a fundamental micro conception about the nature of development to consider whether the respect for human rights is or is not conductive to development is to presuppose the development means only economic development. As we have noticed, however, many argue that development must rather be understood in term of human development and related concepts. Specifically, Amartya Sen proposes that development must be understood as a “process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy”. To ask whether respect for human rights is or is not conductive to development is thus to miss the point that human rights are in themselves constitutes the components of development. As he contends, the relevance of substantive freedoms, such as the right to political participation or to basic education does not have to be freshly established through their indirect contribution to the growth of GNP or the promotion of industrialization. As it happens, these freedoms and rights are also very effective in contributing to economic progress, but while the casual relation is indeed significant, the vindication of freedoms and rights provided by this casual linkage is over and above the directly constitutive role of these freedoms in development.
On Amartya Sen’s account, growth of GNP remains an important means of promoting development, but is cannot be regarded as an end in itself. Rather, as indicated the end of development is, for him, to expand the real freedoms that people enjoy. This is =linked to the idea that poverty is a matter not just of low incomes but rather of what he calls “capability deprivation”, understood as deprivation with respect to the substantive freedoms a person “enjoys to lead the kind of life he/she has reason to value”. If the goal of development is to redress capability deprivation by expanding freedoms, then is calls for the removal of all the “measure sources of unfreedom: poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance of over activity of repressive states”. Human rights broaden the focus of development analysis, to encompass a consideration of the ‘action, strategies and efforts that different duty bearers undertake to contribute to the fulfilment of specified human rights’ and hence to the advancement of corresponding facets of human development.
THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT
The recognition of human rights predates the recent embrace of right based approaches to development by quite some time. The right to development emerged in connection with the efforts of newly independent states in the 1960s and 1970s to establish fairer economic and trade relations between the global north and the global south. In this current form, the right was first recognized by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1977. It is protected in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, opened for signature in 1981. Article 22 of the Charter declares:
- All people shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development.
- State shall have the duty, individually or collectively, to ensure the exercise of the right to development.
The right to development is a affirmed and elaborated in the UN Declaration on the Right to Development, adopted by the General Assembly in 1986. It is re-affirmed as “a universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights”. In the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted at the World Conference on the Human Rights in 1993. In 1998, the UN Commission on Human Rights appointed Arjun Sengupta as independent expert on the right to development. In a series of reports, Sengupta has elaborated a conception of human right to development as the ‘right to a process’, and has examined ways in which the implementation of that right may be enhanced.
If the right to development emerged in connection with efforts to establish fairer economic and trade relations, its subsequent history indicated that for some it has another significance. Thus, the right has been championed by some governments from the global south as a way of justifying repressive policies by reference to the goal of development. Concurrently, the right to development, has been registered by some governments in the global north, anxious to avoid constraints that might impede trade and investment or cause them to lose control over development assistance. Anne Orford observes that both sets of governments have found it convenient to adopt a narrow interpretation of the right, according to which the right to development is essentially as right of states to prioritize a certain economic model of development over human rights. This supports the effort to justify repression, while at the same time making the right easy to discrete. Yet, as Orford also observes the UN Declaration of the right to development additionally and perhaps more readily suggests other, for more progressive interpretation.
Let us begin by considering the subject of right. According to the Article 2(1) of the UN Declaration, the human person in the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development. Under Article 2 (3), “states have the right and duty to formulate appropriate national development policies that aim at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals”. And pursuant to Article 22 (1) of the African Charter, quoted above, “all peoples shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development”. While debates about the subject of the right of the right to development often proceed by privileging one or another of these various formulations, read together they can be understood as establishing a right that has both individual and collective dimensions. The “human person” in the central subject. “all peoples” have the right, but on the basis that what is in issue is the well-being of the “entire population and of all individuals” within it. “States are entitled to formulate development policies for enhancing the well-being of the entire population and individuals, in the sense that others may not prevent or obstruct this goal.
Certainly, the emergence of the right to development has been by no means universally welcomed and from one perspective it is an unhelpful and even dangerous. Another concern it that the right to development risks submerging long established human rights protections in a right of which the basic features remain indistinct or at any rate contested. In Yash Ghai’s words “the fortunes of the disadvantaged are better served by the claims to specific rights like food, shelter and literacy than an amorphous portmanteau right”. This is especially the case given that it seems hard to imagine the right ever being enforced through national courts. Viewed from this angle, the right to development politicizes issues which could otherwise be approached on more objective, formal and legal terms. On the other hand, a further concern is that the right to development precisely depoliticizes issues which should rather be recognized as inescapably political struggles over public projects, resource allocations and social arrangements. Here the worry is that the right engages officials, activists and scholars in endless debates about right holders, duty bearers, enforced mechanisms and other formal and procedural questions diverting attention from the policy choices being made. In this way, it demobilizes those who have reason to contest these choices. It also takes up too much imaginative space, and thus deliberates our capacity for envisioning and formulating alternative frameworks. Let us mention one final concern. This is the anxiety that the right to development may entrench a concept ‘development’ which in itself is the key part of the problem. This paper has highlighted earlier some of the challenges to which the concept of development has given rise, as well as some of the reorientations initiated to meet those challenges. The concern is that after so many reorientations, a little has changed in reality. An evolutionary model continues to hold sway. Deficiency endures as the defining characteristic of developing societies and economic growth remains the overriding concern with distributive considerations coming well behind.
While there may be answers to some of these points, not all the misgivings can be fully allayed. From this it does not follow, however, that the right to development should be dismissed. For if the right to development has important limitations, it also has the potential to make valuable contributions. As in the case of right based approaches to development, it strengthens in some respect the basis for advocacy and resistance, moving claims from the domain of welfare and voluntary assistance to that of entitlement and obligation. In this regard, it also fosters a presumption of responsibility and prompts consideration of the detailed implications of the responsibilities of particular actors in particular contexts. As a synthetic right, the right to development helps to bring out the links between different human rights and the need for an integrated or, as it is sometimes termed ‘holistic’ approach to respect for human rights. As Arjun Sengupta explains, the right to development is not merely the sum total of existing human rights. That is to say it is not merely a “call for the realization of those rights individually, but for realization of them together in a manner that takes into account their effects on each other, both at a particular time”. With this emphasis on participation, the right to development helps in ensuring that consideration of these effects in turn takes into account the diverse perspective of those affected. The right to development also highlights the need for a holistic and structural approach to human rights abuse. By directing our attention to economic and social issues, it helps us to see what is making abuse possible. Finally, the right to development encourages us to attend to the interconnectedness of life in the contemporary world, the ways in which social conditions in different places are linked in patterns of exploitation and cooperation, interdependence and dependency. It thus, heightens perceptions of the global dimensions of the struggle to ensure respect for human rights, enriching understanding not only of the problems confronted, but also of the solidarities that might be mobilized for change.
- Escobar, Encountering Development, Princeton University Press, 1995, p. 52.
- Inaugural Address, 20 January 1949, Inaugural Address of the Presidents of the United states: from George Washington 1789 to George Bush 1989 (Washington, DC: US GPO, 1989)
- W. Sachs, ‘Introduction’ in W. Sachs (ed.), The Development Dictionary (London: Zed Books, 1995).
- W. Sachs, ‘Introduction’ in W. Sachs (ed.), The Development Dictionary (London: Zed Books, 1995).
- M. Black, The No-Nonsense Guide to International Development (London: Verso, 2002).
- Regarding ‘Asian Values’, see Amartya Sen, Human Rights and Asian Values, Sixteenth Morgenthau Memorial Lecture on Ethics & Foreign Policy.
- Kausikan, ‘Asia’s Different Standard’ 92 Foreign Policy (1993).
- K. Mahbubani, ‘The West and the Rest’ 28 The National Interest (1992).
- Sen, Development as Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
- UNDP, Human Development Report 2000: Human Rights and Human Development (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
- G. Abi-Saab, ‘The Legal Formulation of a Right to Development’ in R. Dupuy (ed.), The Right to Development at the International Level (Alphen aan den Rijn: Sijthoff and Noodhoff, 1981).
- UN Commission on Human Rights Res. 4 (XXXIII) of 21 February 1977.
- UN Declaration on Social Progress and Development, UN General Assembly Res. 2542 (XXIV), 11 December 1969.
- UN General Assembly Res. 41/128, 4 December 1986.
- Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, UN Doc. A/CONF: 1957/23, 12 July 1993.
- Franciscans International (eds.), The Right to Development (Geneva: Franciscans International, 2003)
- Orford, ‘Globalization and the Right to Development’ in P. Alston (ed.), Peoples’ Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
- Y. Ghai, Whose Human Right to Development?, Common Wealth Secretariat Series of Occasional Papers on the Right to Development (London: Commonwealth Secretariat, 1989).
- Third Report of the Independent Expert on the Right to Development, Arjun Sengupta. UN Doc. E/CN.4/2001/W.G.18/2, 2 January 2001.
 A. Escobar, Encountering Development, Princeton University Press, 1995, p. 52.
 Inaugural Address, 20 January 1949, Inaugural Address of the Presidents of the United states: from George Washington 1789 to George Bush 1989 (Washington, DC: US GPO, 1989), 285, 290.
 W. Sachs, ‘Introduction’ in W. Sachs (ed.), The Development Dictionary (London: Zed Books, 1995).
 W. Sachs, ‘Introduction’ in W. Sachs (ed.), The Development Dictionary (London: Zed Books, 1995), 3.
 M. Black, The No-Nonsense Guide to International Development (London: Verso, 2002), 27-8.
 Regarding ‘Asian Values’, see Amartya Sen, Human Rights and Asian Values, Sixteenth Morgenthau Memorial Lecture on Ethics & Foreign Policy.
 B. Kausikan, ‘Asia’s Different Standard’ 92 Foreign Policy (1993), 24, 35.
 K. Mahbubani, ‘The West and the Rest’ 28 The National Interest (1992), 3, II.
 A. Sen, Development as Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
 Ibid, 3. See further chapter 6.
 UNDP, Human Development Report 2000: Human Rights and Human Development (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 21.
 G. Abi-Saab, ‘The Legal Formulation of a Right to Development’ in R. Dupuy (ed.), The Right to Development at the International Level (Alphen aan den Rijn: Sijthoff and Noodhoff, 1981), 163.
 UN Commission on Human Rights Res. 4 (XXXIII) of 21 February 1977. See also, earlier, the UN Declaration on Social Progress and Development, UN General Assembly Res. 2542 (XXIV), 11 December 1969 (elaborating on the human rights implications of ‘social progress and development’, but not recognizing a ‘right to development’ in the manner of later instruments).
 UN General Assembly Res. 41/128, 4 December 1986.
 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, UN Doc. A/CONF: 1957/23, 12 July 1993, Part I, para. 10.
 For discussion of the independent expert’s first four reports, see Franciscans International (eds.), The Right to Development (Geneva: Franciscans International, 2003) where the reports themselves are also reproduced.
 A. Orford, ‘Globalization and the Right to Development’ in P. Alston (ed.), Peoples’ Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 127, 133.
 Y. Ghai, Whose Human Right to Development?, Common Wealth Secretariat Series of Occasional Papers on the Right to Development (London: Commonwealth Secretariat, 1989), 15.
 Third Report of the Independent Expert on the Right to Development, Arjun Sengupta. UN Doc. E/CN.4/2001/W.G.18/2, 2 January 2001, para. II.