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Human Rights Quarterly 24.4 (2002) 837-889

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On the Theory and Practice of the Right to Development

Arjun Sengupta* 1

  1. The Right to Development inTheory . . . . . 838
    1. Definition and Content of theRight to Development . . . . . 838
      1. The Right to Development as a HumanRight . . . . . 841
      2. Content of the Right to Development . . . . . 846
      3. The Right to Development as the Right to a Process ofDevelopment . . . . . 848
      4. Duties andObligations . . . . . 852
    2. Controversies Regarding the Rightto Development . . . . . 857
      1. Human Rights as Natural Rights . . . . . 858
      2. Justiciability . . . . . 859
      3. Monitoring of Implementation . . . . . 861
      4. Collective Rights vs. Individual Rights . . . . . 861[End Page 837]
      5. Resource Constraints . . . . . 864
      6. Interdependence of Rights and the Process ofDevelopment . . . . . 868
      7. Value Added of the Right to Development as a Process . . . . . 873
  2. The Right to Development in Practice . . . . . 876
    1. International Cooperation . . . . . 876
      1. Development Assistance . . . . . 879
      2. Development Compacts . . . . . 880
    2. Elements for a Program to Implement the Right to Development . . . . . 883
      1. Illustrative Elements of a Program . . . . . 886
      2. Importance of Economic Growth . . . . . 887

I. The Right To Development In Theory

A. Definition and Content of the Right to Development

The adoption by the United Nations in 1986 of the Declaration on the Right to Development 2 ("the Declaration") was the culmination of a long process of international campaigning for human rights. From the beginning, the idea of human rights as an international concern was perceived as an integrated whole consisting of all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. It was first promoted in the Philadelphia Declaration of the International Labor Conference in 1944, and was then embodied in the Charter of the United Nations 3 ("the Charter"), in 1945. After that, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 4 ("the Universal Declaration") clearly recognized the unity of all rights and elaborated the theme that everybody was equally entitled "to all the rights and freedom set forth in that Declaration" (Articles 1 to 21 covering civil and political rights, and Articles 22 to 28 covering economic, social and cultural rights). Later, in the preamble to each of the International Covenants on Human Rights, this principle was reiterated as, "the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved [End Page 838] if conditions are created where everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights." 5 The integral nature of all these rights was thus recognized as the guiding principle of the exercise of human rights.

After the adoption of the Universal Declaration, one overall single covenant was to be negotiated to include all those rights identified in the Universal Declaration, giving them the sanction of an international treaty. However, as the years passed, the post-war solidarity gave way to the Cold War and the countries were divided in their support of the different rights. So, instead of one unified covenant, those rights were codified in 1966 in two international covenants—one on civil and political rights, the other on economic, social and cultural rights. In spite of the integrity of these rights, the real politick of international relations at that time dictated a split in the treaty obligations of the different states in implementing these rights.

However, much of the international community was not satisfied with this split in the commitment to human rights and the adoption of these two separate instruments. As early as 1968, the Proclamation of Tehran stated: "since human rights and fundamental freedoms are indivisible, the full realization of civil and political rights without the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights is impossible." 6 In 1969, the Declaration on Social Progress and Development 7 further emphasized the interdependence of these two sets of rights, and by the early 1970s, the concept of the right to development emerged as a human right. It was first articulated by the developing countries in the context of the New International Economic Order and later taken up by experts, academics, and NGOs as unifying in itself the civil and political rights as well as the economic, social and cultural rights. Throughout the 1970s, the international community repeatedly examined...


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