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  What Is ‘The Right To Development?’

Geneva: 61st Human Rights Commission (CHR61)
Update: March 24th

In recent sessions, CHR61 delegates have been looking at the ‘right to development.’ The UN Declaration on the Right to Development was adopted in 1986, and since then there has not always been agreement over its legal definition and scope. That document states: “The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to …… enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.” (Art. 1,1)

Speaking on behalf of the African Group of Nations, Ethiopian representative Lulit Zewdie described the concept as a bridge linking politics and economics with the language of human rights: development is a fundamental right, not simply an economic goal. He highlighted key challenges such as: dealing effectively with the unsustainable debt burden of many countries; the need for a timely conclusion of the Doha round of trade talks to resolve the issue of market access for many less-developed countries, especially in the area of agriculture. Removing such barriers to equitable trade is a vital part of the pursuit of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

World Bank Representative Joseph Ingram affirmed that the principles highlighted by UN working groups on this issue are the same as those behind the Bank’s approach to development, including a participatory and consultative process engaging all stakeholders, especially the poor. Civil society observers have expressed concern recently over the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz as the Bank’s new president as possibly heralding a shift towards a narrower ideological approach.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Observer of the Holy See, highlighted the role of faith-based organisations as effective instruments in delivering the Right to Development because “they focus directly on the human person and on an understanding of sustainable development that keeps a balanced relationship….”

Debate in this area is currently focused around the pursuit of the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015, with Anglican and other bodies making this a focus of advocacy and awareness work. See also Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, and the Make Poverty History campaign linking major Christian NGOs such as Christian Aid, Tear Fund and others in a campaign to make the Right to Development a reality.

Revd Michael French, Secretary to Geneva Representation,


Published by the Anglican Communion Office ©2002 Anglican Consultative Council