Development and Human Rights: The Necessary, but Partial Integration of Human Rights and Development
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Human Rights Quarterly 22.3 (2000) 734-752



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Development and Human Rights: The Necessary, but Partial Integration of Human Rights and Development

Hans-Otto Sano


I. Introduction

In 1995, the Human Rights Council of Australia (HRCA) published The Rights Way to Development: Human Rights Approach to Development Assistance. 1 The authors presented a further development of these ideas at a seminar at the Danish Centre for Human Rights in 1997, attended by people from both development and human rights circles. The authors of the report met with a mixed reception, receiving critique especially from those in development quarters.

It is not so strange that the ideas put forward in The Rights Way to Development about linking development and human rights did not win broad approval is not so strange. The authors had chosen to disregard the fact that the discipline of development was not originally based on rights and had, without much reservation, considered development activities as an integral part of human rights work. The stated "[d]evelopment exists within a human rights framework. . . . Development should rightly be seen as an integral part of human rights." 2 [End Page 734]

The Australian authors premised these views on Article 10 of the Vienna Declaration on Human Rights (1993) 3 that defines development as part of human rights and on the Declaration of the Right to Development (1986), 4 which linked human rights and development closely together. The authors of The Rights Way to Development thus jumped directly from the summit meeting declarations to an understanding of practice without considering that existing approaches to development do not necessarily have their basis in human rights. 5

Although the HRCA paper can be considered to be an incomplete attempt that will not win much understanding in the world of development, it is true that human rights and development need to be brought closer together. Because these two disciplines increasingly operate within the same subject areas and with the same target groups, they can benefit each other.

This article attempts to explain the character of this convergence and to make proposals as to how it can be achieved. First, a brief explanation is given as to why convergence is happening just now. Second, the history and background of human rights and development are discussed more fully in order to identify the essential points and possibilities that they share. Finally, the roles that the two disciplines have played in Danish aid policy are examined, providing a concrete background for discussion of the obstacles and opportunities for further integration.

II. Two Tendencies in the 1990s

It is appropriate to think of human rights and development research as connected because of two predominant tendencies of the 1990s. The first tendency is that the demands of developing countries for social provisions increasingly won support as internationally accepted norms or entitlements. This is reflected in the UN Social Summit Meeting in Copenhagen in 1995 (with its focus on common principles for social initiatives, e.g., the 20-20 principle), in the fight against poverty and for people's participation, and in the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993. In the latter's [End Page 735] final declaration, both the principle of the indivisibility of human rights and the right to development were accepted unanimously. The conference thus gave the right to development international legitimacy and at the same time emphasized once more that social and economic rights have the same status as civil and political rights. In other words, during the 1990's, development was increasingly perceived as a right, whereas earlier it had been perceived as an instrument of solidarity.

The second tendency that strengthens the closer connection between human rights and development efforts is the increasing weight placed on good governance and democratization in the development discourse after the conclusion of the cold war. The central point in this connection is not necessarily democracy as a form of government, which in some cases can be an unwarranted export from the West, but democratization as a political culture...