How does development contribute to the enjoyment of human rights?

‘How does development contribute to the enjoyment of human rights’? This is the question that the UN Human Rights Council has asked its Advisory Committee to prepare a study on. Together with our colleagues at ATD Fourth World, the Centre for Economic and Social Rights and Franciscans International, we have responded to the Advisory Committee’s call for submissions on this question.

Our submission emphasises that human rights enjoyment should be the ultimate goal of development, but it is not an inevitable by-product. Not all development is human rights-aligned, and governments need to make active efforts to ground their development objectives in human rights. There are many examples of development initiatives or programs that have led directly to the violation of human rights and also examples of economically developed countries where human rights are not realized. Therefore, in our view there is no inevitable causal connection between economic development and the realization of human rights.

We also advocated that the study should focus on ‘sustainable development’ rather than economic development, or economic growth as a proxy for development. Following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, there is now an international consensus that development alone is insufficient and the international goal is for ‘sustainable development’.

States’ human rights treaty obligations are applicable to their development activities and there is significant evidence that rights-respecting development is more sustainable. Best practice sustainable development measures must support and enable States to respect, protect and fulfill human rights and must not undermine States’ ability to do so. Best practice sustainable development measures must also respect the concepts of the universality and indivisibility of all human rights, and the principles of non-discrimination, equality, accountability and effective remedies.

The Advisory Committee will submit its report to the Human Rights Council before its forty-first session in June/July 2019.