Opening statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the thirteenth session of the Working Group on the Right to Developement

7 May 2012

Distinguished delegates,

I am pleased to address the thirteenth session of the Working Group on the Right to Development.

In November last year, I spoke before you on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development.

The twenty-fifth anniversary fell in a remarkable year that saw ordinary people across the globe taking to the streets to demand justice, dignity and freedom from fear and want:  the central tenets of the Declaration on the Right to Development.

The fruits of these protests are yet to be fully reaped. New development challenges and human rights deficits need to be addressed with undiminished urgency, as the current economic and financial strains in many countries threaten to erode hard-won gains at home and to ignite a negative ripple effect internationally.
Distinguished delegates,

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight three important events in development policy ahead of us: first: the preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, referred to as Rio+ 20, second; the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR); and third: the future of the post 2015 development agenda. It is crucial to ensure that “all human rights, including the right to development” are explicitly and thoroughly integrated in these policy developments, and in any final outcome.

The right to development is an integral part of the UN mandate to promote and protect human rights for all. 

My office spares no effort to ensure that this is reflected in ongoing discussions on development. In this context, I am very encouraged by the call made by Member States of this Working Group for full integration of the right to development into all areas of the work of the United Nations system and of international financial and trade institutions, as well as its major processes such as the follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC IV), UNCTAD XIII, and the other policy developments I have highlighted.

Human rights must be regarded as indispensible assets and indeed as the foundations of a global partnership for development that aims at achieving the well-being of all people without discrimination. 

Distinguished delegates,

At the Working Group’s last session I discussed the persistent challenges that stand in the way of the realization of the right to development. In that regard, I pointed out that the politicization, polarization and the impasse in the intergovernmental debate on the right to development must end.

As you begin your work reviewing the comments received on the proposed right to development criteria, I urge you to overcome the challenges, and to set an actionable roadmap to guide your work.

In moving ahead, I stress the need to respect the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, as explicitly reflected in the Declaration on the Right to Development.

Adherence to the Declaration and to the consensus agreements reached at the past meetings of this Working Group are indispensable to keep the debate both relevant and substantive. It will also help to surmount and dispel the political impasse which undermines your work and your effectiveness.

A common objective should be to create a practical and operational framework for the implementation of the right to development, so as to realize the potential of this right with open, sustained engagement, including through encouraging the participation and input of a wider constituency.

I look forward to steps that this Working Group will take to break the political deadlock and to help implement the letter and the substance of the Declaration on the Right to Development.

Thank you.