As representatives of non-governmental organizations that have followed closely the deliberations of the United Nations on the right to development for many years and have shared the frustration often voiced in the meetings as evidenced by negative and abstaining votes on Commission on Human Rights and General Assembly resolutions, we wish to express our satisfaction with the promising beginning of this session of the Working Group.

The new spirit is manifested by the political support all groups have formally expressed, by the successful holding of the High-Level Seminar on the Right the Development on 9-10 February 2004, and by the constructive inputs of national governments, UN agencies and international financial institutions during the seminar and before this Working Group.

Mr. Chairman,

Your experience, leadership and commitment to a constructive dialogue on the right to development have already had a positive impact on the deliberations of this body. You have drawn the Working Group’s attention to the fact that the conceptual confusion sometimes voiced by delegations and national governments is overcome by the operational definition provided in the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development and we agree with you that—however useful concepts of a process, a framework, or an environment may be in certain contexts—this body needs to move forward to operationalize the right to development, using the eight reports of the Independent Expert and the existing development policies of international agencies and national governments.

The prevailing new spirit needs to be translated into productive strategies that will provide guidance for new partnerships and the harmonization of approaches to the right to development throughout the UN system as all agencies and governments move forward to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

As the Chair has said quite accurately, the Working Group cannot, in its current form, operationalize the right to development. But it can serve as a forum bringing together all the actors who are in a position to “make the right to development a reality for all,” in the words of the Millennium Declaration. We, therefore, urge the Working Group to give consideration to the following four ideas designed to engage in a useful dialogue on the operationalization of the right to development.

First, the serious research and insightful ideas advanced by the Independent Expert should not be lost and indeed this Working Group and the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights should both benefit from outside scholarly and practical inputs by independent thinkers like Professor Sengupta. We therefore urge you to establish an appropriate follow-on mechanism to that of the Independent Expert.

Second, the UN agencies and programs, regional development institutions and international financial institutions have shown remarkable willingness to rethink their development strategies in order to integrate the right to development. This creative development of a system-wide contribution to the right to development in the policies and programs of these institutions should be further encouraged through a regular dialogue.

Third, at the High-Level Seminar and through other initiatives, such as the Right to Development Project , specific country experience adapting the principles of the right to development to the realities of development practice are coming to light. We urge the Working Group to adopt a procedure that would allow for the regular examination of similar experiences so that the conclusion of such a review could be reported to the Working Group for its consideration.

Fourth, we see advantage to a regular dialogue between experts, NGOs, States and international institutions that would provide the opportunity to identify gaps between existing development partnerships, such as UNDAFs, MDGs, NEPAD, OECD/DAC, CDF, etc., and the principles of the right to development and to stimulate the rethinking of these partnerships with a view to more systematic incorporation of these principles.

By establishing a means to achieve these four objectives the Working Group would assist governments to meet their obligations to cooperate under the UN Charter, as well as their commitments undertaken in the Declaration on the Right to Development, the Millennium Declaration and the declarations of other international conferences and summits.

We look to this Working Group to make the right to development meaningful where it matters the most, for people suffering the indignities and hardships of poverty; for minorities and indigenous peoples, who are left out of the benefits of development and whose human rights are systematically denied; for people who could be saved from the ravages of AIDS, including children orphaned by the pandemic, millions who die needlessly from malaria, tuberculosis and other preventable diseases. The failure of national government and international institutions to meet the development needs and realize the human rights of their populations is what the right to development is all about. This Working Group can promote strategies for reorienting priorities to meet those needs and realize those human rights. If it does, it can count on the full support of those of us in civil society who devote our energies to “making the right to development a reality for all.”
1. This project is jointly implemented by the Centre for Development and Human Rights in New Delhi and the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center at Harvard School of Public Health (See For related work by Minority Rights Group International, see and for Franciscans International see
Oral, Written or Summary: 
Meeting Year: 


Open-Ended Working Group on the Right To Development: (Geneva, 11-20 February 2004)
Meeting Name: 
Open-Ended Working Group on the Right To Development: (Geneva, 11-20 February 2004)