Analysis by Adriano José Timossi*
GENEVA (IDN) - The commemorations of the adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development by the UN General Assembly 30 years ago gained a new momentum on September 29, 2016, with the adoption by the Human Rights Council of a resolution (A/HRC/33/L.29) which established a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development.
On September 22, 2016, the President of the UN General Assembly convened a one-day high-level segment, in the margins of the general debate of the UN General Assembly at its seventy-first session, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development.
The opening session of the High-level thematic debate featured special addresses by Peter Thomson, President of the United Nations General Assembly and Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General. It also had speeches by Zeid Ra'ad AI Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi,
The draft of the resolution was presented by Venezuela on behalf of the member states of the Non-aligned Movement and China, and was adopted by a vote of 34 in favour, two against and 11 abstentions.
The Council decided to appoint, for a period of three years, a Special Rapporteur on the right to development, whose mandate will include:
- To contribute to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the right to development in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other internationally agreed outcomes of 2015.
- To engage and support efforts to mainstream the right to development among various United Nations bodies, development agencies, international development, financial and trade institutions, and to submit proposals aimed at strengthening the revitalized global partnership for sustainable development from the perspective of the right to development.
- To contribute to the work of the Working Group with a view to supporting the accomplishment of its overall mandate, taking into account, inter alia, the deliberations and recommendations of the Working Group while avoiding any duplication.
- To submit any specific study by the Human Rights Council in accordance with its mandate.
- To submit an annual report to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly covering all activities relating to the mandate.
In his remarks introducing the draft proposal, Ambassador Jorge Valero (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela), on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), recalled that in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action on the Right to Development, the Council committed to elevate the right to development to the same level as other human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“The Right to Development means to build societies where human dimension, social justice and equality and freedom prevail on Mother Earth… to overcome asymmetries that exist in the international system and to achieve juridical equality of states, and where demands for collective happiness are satisfied,” he said.
“The mandate of Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development will contribute to the work of the Working Group in the accomplishment of this important mandate,” he added. The mandate holder in its work will be complementary and will not duplicate or overlap with the work of the Working Group, he emphasized.
India and NAM
India’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ajit Kumar, added New Delhi's support to the draft resolution, while also congratulating Venezuela for assuming office as the Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Islamic Republic of Iran for its able leadership of the NAM in the past four years.
Ambassador Kumar said that the resolution was a “clear expression of the strong commitment of Member States to reinvigorate and advance the discussions on the Right to Development within the Council and its mechanisms.”
“Regrettably, even after 30 years of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development and 17 years of Working Group meetings, the right to development remains a distant reality,” he said.
“There is an urgent need to infuse new energy and purpose to deliberations of the Working Group so that it can fulfil its mandate in a time bound manner. Any argument in favour of the status quo would be highly unjustifiable,” he stated.
The ambassador reaffirmed the support of his country to “proposals that aim to overcome existing obstacles and consider new ways to take the Working Group deliberations to the next level.”
Speaking on the value of the new mandate holder in the context of the implementation of the Agenda 2030 and the SDGs, Ambassador Kumar highlighted that “SDGs are universal and equally applicable to all countries, big and small, rich or poor, developed and developing".
He added: "The Right to Development can provide a balanced, comprehensive and enabling framework to strengthen the global partnership to achieve these ambitious goals in a sustainable manner while promoting all human rights for all.”
He stressed that “the fresh perspective and expertise that a Special Rapporteur can bring will greatly contribute to elaborating such a framework while complementing the work of the Working Group without duplicating mandates”.
The establishment of the new special procedure mandate on the right to development is a befitting way to accord the priority, attention and resources that realization of this fundamental right deserves. He concluded in urging all Member States to “shun any reservations they may have and extend their full support to the resolution”.
African Group stresses member states' strong commitment
South Africa’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, speaking on behalf of the African Group expressed the support of the African continent for the draft resolution proposed by NAM and China.
Ambassador Mxakato-Diseko underscored that 2016 was a crucial year for the start of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“We cannot talk about the promotion and protection of human rights without addressing the challenges of poverty, underdevelopment and inequality, which continue to impact developing countries negatively,” she stressed.
The African Group underscored the need for a strong commitment by Member States of the UN and all relevant programmes, funds and agencies to work together for the full realization of the Right to Development.
The African Group also recalled the need to mainstream the right to development in the policies and operational activities of the UN and its specialized agencies, programmes and funds. She concluded that “the right to development is about the constant improvement of the quality of life for all peoples everywhere”.
Ambassador Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo, Permanent Representative of Cuba stressed that the Right to Development remains one of the highest priorities of developing countries.
While expressing strong support for the proposals contained in the draft resolution, in particular the creation of a special rapporteur, she stressed that “it will be crucial to ensure all material support and human resources necessary for the new mandate holder to perform their duties on an equal footing with other procedures and contribute to the work of the Working Group on the Right to Development, as has been proposed”.
“Far from seeing this new process as a waste of resources or unnecessary duplication, as alleged by some developed countries, we should see it as a new hope for millions of people around the world and to the goal of achieving an enabling international environment for development, in which all countries, without distinction or interference, may define their own models and policies, consistent with their conditions and realities”, Ambassador Camejo added.
[Just a few days earlier at the high-level meeting to mark the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development, in New York, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno said: "The right to development cannot continue to be denied among the family of human rights or its true priority be disregarded. Similarly, the use of technicalities to hamper the setting up of a Convention on the Right to Development that paves the way to its materialization should end”].
EU opposes an international legal standard
However, Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, opposed the creation of another mechanism that “would duplicate efforts”. EU was also not in favour of an international legal standard of a binding nature, to which the draft resolution has a reference. The EU said that “diverging views remained and a common position had not been reached so far”, and concluded that the EU would not be able to support the resolution.
The United Kingdom, speaking in an explanation of the vote said “that the primary responsibility for ensuring that the right to development was realized was owed to citizens by States”. The UK is also against an international legal standard of a binding nature.
The Human Rights Council agenda was already overloaded and the appointment of a Special Rapporteur would detract from more pressing items, the delegate said. The United Kingdom, a member of the Council, called for a vote on the text and would vote no, “despite its support for the right to development”, the delegate concluded.
The 47 members of the Human Rights Council voted as follows: In favour (34): Algeria, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Burundi, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Togo, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and Viet Nam.
Against (2): France, and United Kingdom. Abstentions (11): Albania, Belgium, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Netherlands, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
*Adriano José Timossi is a Senior Programme Officer of the Global Governance for Development Programme (GGDP) at the South Centre. This article first appeared in SOUTHNEWS, No. 127, 30 September 2016, and is being reprinted by arrangement with them. SOUTHNEWS is a service of the South Centre to provide information and news on topical issues from a South perspective. [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 September 2016]
Photo: The Human Rights Council takes place in Room XX at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, with the beautiful ceiling by Spanish abstract artist Miquel Barceló.
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