Item 7: The Right to Development.

March 19 - April 27, 2001
Palais des Nations, GenevaMr. Chairman,

Over the past two years Franciscans International in association with other NGOs has been following closely the discussion within the United Nations about the Right to Development. Since 1999, we have met with a number of the Geneva-based diplomatic missions to discuss the challenges of the RTD; organized three seminars on the RTD and have taken part in the sessions of the Open Ended Working Group. With our experience of the good will and open conversations with members of the diplomatic community, several NGOs and experts during our meetings, we regret that the Working Group was not able to arrive at a consensus report to the CHR.

However, the discussions have been educational and have helped us to formulate some conclusions and ideas.

The basic human right to development is an essential part of our human nature and it is a formative part of each personís individual personality. Development is the base and matrix for all human life, distinguishing humans from other forms of life on the planet. It is universal as each child is born with his or her own right and responsibility to develop. If a person were to live and grow physically for seventy years but refused to develop mentally, emotionally and personally, we would say that it was a tragedy.

Within the human family we see an operational model of the RTD with the care, support, sharing and exchanging geared toward development of independent persons who are capable of acting together. Without having any formal training in human rights, a mother or father will preserve, promote and protect a childís right to develop.

The family, the first social unit, enjoys both a right and a responsibility to develop, to be itself most completely for its members and within its neighborhood. A neighborhood has a similar relationship of right to develop and responsibilities towards the persons in the neighborhood and within the city; the city has its own set of rights and responsibilities for development vis-‡-vis its neighborhoods and within the region; the region within the state and the state within the international community.

At each level of human organization there are various types of obstacles that can frustrate, impede or destroy our development. If a person is tortured, disappeared or silenced, her or his right to develop is violated. If I do not learn to read and write or if I am undernourished, my right to develop is cheated and I am not able to participate responsibly within society. The human right to development supercedes and illuminates our civil, cultural, economic, political and social human rights. Obstacles to the right of development are addressed in a minimal way in the two covenants of human rights.

The RTD does not belong to one segment of the international community. It is a universal right and it is indivisible. Each person, each family, every neighborhood, each city, every country and all nations share a common responsibility for its implementation. As a universal right, the RTD cannot be reduced to discussions about financial assistance nor be confused with development projects.

The Declaration of the RTD was not a new invention, as it is a statement of the obvious. The human RTD is inborn and natural to all persons, not to be bestowed by an international agreement. Our own right to development and responsibility can be guided, protected and promoted by these agreements.

We urge the CHR to recommend to the Open Ended Working Group to continue its wide base discussion with various sectors of society (economic, spiritual, judicial, anthropological, psychological) to investigate the challenges of our being fully human and alive participating members of our societies. We suggest that the OEWG recommends ways to overcome the obstacles to human development at the various stages of community organization.
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