Opening statement by Mr. Craig Mokhiber, Chief, Development, Economic and Social Issues Branch, RRDD at the Author Roundtable

9 December 2013

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon and welcome to this Author Roundtable.

Our newest publication ‘Realizing the Right to Development’ celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development which we marked two years ago. Speaking before the anniversary event here, which brought together the President of the General Assembly and the Chairs of the First, Second and Third Committees. The Secretary-General made an unequivocal call to bring the right to development to life for all, and recalled the words of Keba M’baye, the Senegalese jurist, that ‘to develop is to improve life’, and that this required ‘development of the mind’. He said, ‘Today we need more than a meeting. We need a meeting of the minds’.

In adopting the Declaration on the Right to Development on the 4th of December 1986, the General Assembly presented a vision for transformative development. Founded on the principles of international law and human rights, and anchored in the strength of international solidarity, the right to development can respond to the challenges of today - if only we embrace it as a shared vision for our common future.

As a universal human right, the right to development belongs to everyone, everywhere, irrespective of all distinctions, and indifferent to all classifications.
Every five seconds, a child dies from hunger-related diseases. And for the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are 640 million (1 in 3) without adequate shelter. Education holds the keys to development, but many of the world’s children are shut out of school, some even trapped in the woes of child labour, just so that their families might survive. Among people living in poverty, women aged 15 to 30 have a year less schooling than men of the same age group. In an age of unprecedented scientific and technological progress we still have a long way to go to enable the disabled to live a normal life. And many children and young people with disabilities never find their way to school or to gainful employment. Underdevelopment takes people to distant places, in search of work and better prospects, often to be denied their basic decency and dignity.

The fact that almost half of humanity lives in need, and that a quarter of the world’s people hold three-quarters of its total income means that we have not kept our promise of fair and equitable development to everyone. The right to development mandates an enabling environment for all to participate in, contribute to and enjoy development. When we grant people the right to unlock their potential, we trigger a transformation in our world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The vulnerabilities of persons and groups who are marginalized must be addressed and redressed in realizing the right to development, which calls for social and economic reform to end social injustices. So too, the vulnerabilities of persons living in developing countries, the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, Small Island Developing States, countries in conflict and post-conflict, and fragile States. The right to development calls for reform in global governance to enable the full participation and representation of all peoples and nations and requires accountability.

Poverty can breed conflict, and too many are locked in cycles of meaningless violence. Too much money is spent on military might, too little on human rights-based development. Whereas many crimes have been rooted in the defining shades of skin colour, the Declaration on the Right to Development prohibits racism and discrimination in all its forms. Barriers based on caste, creed or language, limit the choices of many, leaving them untouched by the benefits of development. Allowed to escalate, the dynamics of discrimination can eventually fan the flames of war. And deprivation continues to plague the many refugees and internally displaced persons who find a way out of its ashes.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Great challenges can be overcome by the building of bridges, and the world still needs to find a bridge to lasting peace. The Declaration on the Right to Development builds a bridge across the 3 pillars of the UN Charter - peace and security, development and human rights. It explicitly calls for complete disarmament and the re-direction of the resulting savings to development.

Realizing the right to development simply requires us to deliver on the promises we have made. The United Nations Charter vowed to promote solutions to international problems through international cooperation. Towards these ends, its Members pledged to take joint and separate action. And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights entitles everyone to a social and international order in which human rights and fundamental freedoms can be realized for all.

For policy coherence in the global partnership for development, we need the full mainstreaming of all human rights- including the right to development, across and beyond the UN system. And human rights - including the right to development - together with equality and sustainability, must guide the making of the post-2015 development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

The international community must find the courage, the wisdom and the tenacity to adopt transformative solutions. Our interdependence requires us to rethink the way we do business, including at the United Nations. We invite the increased engagement of all stakeholders, and an active civil society. In this context, I welcome the collaboration of Freiderich Ebert Stiftung at this Author Roundtable. I thank the editors and authors of ‘Realizing the Right to Development’, and solicit your active participation in the efforts to re-think and re-balance. I wish you a successful meeting.

I thank you.