Statement by Ms. Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Special Event on the Right to Development and Global Partnership for Development Geneva, 12 July 2011

ECOSOC 2011 Substantive Session
Coordination Segment

Distinguished Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to begin by thanking the Vice-President for this opportunity to mark the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development at the ECOSOC. I also wish to thank my colleague Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, for his support and for co-moderating this special event with me.

We should all take the opportunity of this 25th anniversary to advocate the right to development on behalf of the victims to whom the benefits of freedom from fear and want are denied.  I have in mind the 500,000 women who die in childbirth every year; the millions of children suffering from hunger; the 1 billion malnourished people worldwide.  Both our partnership and determination are essential to raise the understanding of a right that, all too often, has been relegated to the backburner of public consciousness. 

As one who was born poor and found a pathway out of deprivation, I feel morally compelled to ensure that others are afforded similar opportunities.  As High Commissioner for Human Rights, I am mandated by the General Assembly to promote and protect the right to development.  For this purpose, my Office was asked to enhance support from relevant bodies of the United Nations system. Moreover, in its annual resolutions on the right to development, the General Assembly requests the High Commissioner to mainstream the right to development within the UN system and to undertake activities aimed at strengthening the global partnership for development between Member States, development agencies and the international development, financial and trade institutions.

The meaningful implementation of this mandate requires strong support from the Economic and Social Council. As the principal UN organ which coordinates the economic and social endeavors of the fourteen United Nations specialized agencies, functional commissions and five regional commissions, this Council provides the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues.  It is also a venue where policy recommendations can be formulated and addressed to Member States and the United Nations system.

While the international community prepares for the final push toward the 2015 Millennium Development Goals deadline, multitudes still struggle with the setbacks in progress caused by recurrent man-made crises, natural catastrophes and bad governance.  These upheavals, misconduct and abuse gravely undermine the very concept of the right to development, along with all other human rights.   The recent events in the Middle East and North Africa underscored this point. Chanting “Bread, Freedom and Human Dignity”, the protestors in that region showed how violations of rights—economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights—are tightly linked and produce chain reactions.  They asserted that a denial of peoples’ participation in shaping the destiny of a nation, the unfair allocation of its wealth, the corrosive effects of abuses of human rights on livelihoods and dignity must be brought to an end.

Let me recall that in 2010, at the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals, the Heads of State and Government reaffirmed the “importance of freedom, peace and security, respect for all human rights, including the right to development, the rule of law, gender equality and an overall commitment to just and democratic societies for development”.  The leaders also committed to the implementation of MDG 8, that is, the promotion of a global partnership for development.

A vehicle to promote and streamline such partnership is the Secretary-General’s Integrated MDGs Implementation Framework. This new mechanism is designed to help identify and monitor progress in the many joint and individual commitments to the global partnership for development, which will increase transparency and public awareness of the international commitments made for development and thereby increase accountability, which is itself a fundamental human rights principle.

Although the primary responsibility for fostering equitable development rests with States, the realities of globalization demand the engagement of all of us, including at the international level.   Ultimately, our role is to ensure that a global partnership truly serves the aspirations of the people themselves as holders of rights and as the legitimate subjects of development.  A human rights lens can elucidate many root causes of poverty and disempowerment, which often include entrenched discrimination and inequality.

With an ever increasing pool of development actors, the need for policy coherence, based on the holistic approach enshrined in the Declaration on the Right to Development, is obvious. The crucial question is how the realization of the right to development and, specifically, the achievement of MDG 8 can reinforce each other and how the UN system can use these synergies in the journey towards 2015 and beyond.

I cannot overemphasize that development strategies focussed too narrowly on economic growth lose sight of broader development objectives. Development should be about access to opportunities leading towards the constant improvement of human well-being, about guaranteeing the right to a life of dignity and freedom – freedom from want, freedom from fear and the freedom to flourish.

In this perspective, the right to development can help States to formulate, adopt, and implement policies and programs for just, equitable and sustainable development for all. The right to development embodies the human rights principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation, transparency and accountability as well as international cooperation. It puts people at the centre of development; it envisages free, active and meaningful participation; and the fair distribution of the benefits of development. It encompasses the principles of self-determination and sovereignty over natural resources.

Along the road to Rio+20 we must both recall and renew the commitment of the 1992 United Nations Declaration on Environment and Development (Rio Declaration) that human beings should be at the center of development, and that the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.

All areas specifically addressed under MDG 8 -- aid, market access, debt sustainability, access to affordable essential medicines and to new technologies -- stand to benefit from the application of the constituent elements of the right to development.

Many promises have been made. Some progress has been achieved as well. But we are still falling far short of what is needed.  We have a solemn responsibility to make the right to development a reality for everyone, everywhere, so that all can enjoy freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Thank you.