0253 GMT January 29, 2020
Three decades ago, the declaration ‘broke new ground in the struggle for greater freedom, equality and justice’, remarked the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, at a session of the Human Rights Council on June 15, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the declaration, Ipsnews reported.
The right to development has had great resonance among people all over the world, especially in developing countries. Even the term itself ‘the right to development’ carries a great sense and weight of meaning and of hope.
In the past three decades, it has been invoked numerous times in international negotiations. The right to development is a major component of the Rio Principles endorsed by the 1992 Earth Summit, and most recently it was included in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change of 2015.
It is fitting to recall some of the important elements of this right to development. It is human and people centered. It is an inalienable human right, where every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy development in which all rights and freedoms can be fully realized . The human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of development.
It gives responsibility to each state to get its act together to take measures to get its people’s right to development fulfilled. But it also places great importance to the international arena, giving a responsibility to all countries to cooperate internationally and especially to assist the developing countries.
It is thus useful to identify some of the present key global issues that have relevance to the right to development, or that constitute obstacles to its realization, and to take steps to address them.
Firstly is the crisis in the global economy. The economic sluggishness in developed countries has had adverse impact on developing economies, with lower commodity prices and falling export earnings affecting their economic and social development. Many economies face the havoc of volatility in the inflow and outflow of funds, due to absence of controls over speculative capital, and fluctuations in their currency levels due to the lack of a global mechanism to stabilize currencies.
Several countries are facing or are on the brink of another external debt crisis. There is for them an absence of an international sovereign debt restructuring mechanism, and countries that undertake their own debt workout may well become victims of vulture funds.
All these problems make it difficult for developing countries to maintain their development momentum, and constitute obstacles to realizing the right to development.
Second is the challenge of formulating and implementing appropriate development strategies. This includes getting policies right in boosting agricultural production, farmers’ incomes and food security; and climbing the ladder from labor intensive to higher technology industries and overcoming the middle-income trap. There is also the imperative to provide social services such as healthcare, education, water supply, lighting and transport, and developing financial and commercial services.
For many countries, development policy-making has been made more difficult due to premature liberalization resulting from loan conditionality and trade and investment agreements which severely constrain their policy space. Policies used by other countries when they were developing may no longer be available due to conditionality or international agreements.
Thirdly, climate change has become an existential problem for the human race. It is an outstanding example of environmental constraints to development and the right to development.
In 2014, the assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that the world has to limit its release of Greenhouse Gases to only release another 1,000 billion tons if there is to be a reasonable chance of avoiding global warming of 2˚C, and anything above that level would cause a devastating disaster. Global emissions are running at 50 billion tons a year. Within two decades the atmospheric space would be filled up. Therefore, there is an imperative to cut global emissions as sharply and quickly as possible.
Fourthly is another existential problem — the crisis of anti-microbial resistance and the dangers of a post-antibiotic age. Many diseases are becoming increasingly difficult to treat because bacteria have become more and more resistant to anti-microbials. Some strains of bacteria are now resistant to multiple antibiotics and a few have become pan resistant – resistant to all antibiotics.
Actions are needed to reduce the over-use and wrong use of antibiotics including control over unethical marketing of drugs, control of the use of antibiotics in livestock, to educate the public and discover new antibiotics.
Finally there are major challenges in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs include very ambitious and idealistic goals and targets, but there are obstacles to fulfilling them.
For example, Goal Three is “to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” One of the targets is to achieve universal health coverage, that no one should be denied treatment because they cannot afford it. But this will remain an unfulfilled noble aim unless governments address the controversial issue of how to finance public health measures.