A new social contract needed to advance the realization of the right to development

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was blunt in his assessment of global progress in realizing the aims set down in the Declaration on the Right to Development.

A call for global action to advance the realisation of the right to development © UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe“On paper, the Declaration lived. In practice it languished,” he said. “Economic growth and material wealth were mistaken for true development. Visible, accountable hands in government ceded too much to the invisible, unreliable hands of the market. Human rights were too often subverted for financial gain.  Our environment was sacrificed for the economy. Lavish luxury fed off of deplorable want.”

Since 1986 the Declaration has been reaffirmed by the international community on many occasions including in the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the 2000 Millennium Declaration, the 2005 World Summit Outcome, the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Review Summit and the 2011 Istanbul Programme of Action.

The Secretary-General was addressing a special event at the UN General Assembly in New York organized by the OHCHR to commemorate a quarter century since the Development Declaration was adopted.

Speaking as Chair of the event, UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay drew attention to this year’s protests in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, the U.S. and many other regions. “Today’s world-wide upheavals calling for change provide ample testimony that the pursuit of progress without regard to human rights premised on human dignity cannot be sustained,” she said.

Ban reminded delegates that implicit in the Declaration is a commitment to a coherent, coordinated international effort to achieve disarmament and international peace and security.

Peace is a necessary precondition for development, he said but, “Our world is drowning in arms. Illegal weapons are flooding markets and wreaking havoc on communities. We have to beg for funds for peace operations while military spending tops a trillion dollars.”

Supporting the Secretary-General’s call for a change of mind set, Pillay pointed to the statistics: “The fact that almost three billion people live in poverty and 20 percent of the world’s people hold 70 percent of its total income means that we have not kept our promises.”  

“The politicization, polarization, and impasse in the intergovernmental debate on the right to development must end.  It is imperative to create an enabling international environment, greater political consensus and more political will,” she said.

Referring directly to the turmoil on global financial markets, Ban spoke of his meetings with the leaders of the G20 where he argued for a new social contract for the 21st Century.

“We need a recovery that generates jobs, so that growth is sustainable and inclusive,” he said.

“People do not want handouts.  They are not interested in charity.  All they ask is the right to build their own future,” Ban said.

22 November 2011

Human Rights Day 2011


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