Right to Development Project


The Right to Development Project (Initiated in 2001 by the founder of CDHR, the late Dr. Arjun Sengupta)

This project is dedicated to bringing theoretical clarity to the concept of Right to Development by integrating the academic disciplines of law, economics, international co-operation and philosophy.

Useful Concepts & Recent Initiatives

Concept of Right to Development

The UN General Assembly proclaimed development as a human right in its 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development. The Commission appointed an Independent Expert on Right to Development in 1998. An open-ended Working Group on the Right to Development was also instituted. The Right to Development is the right to a process of development where all human rights – economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights – are realized. An improvement in realization of the Right to Development means that at least some rights should improve while no rights are violated. Implementing the Right to Development would require implementation of a development policy for the economy as a whole. It would harmonize policies for realizing individual rights with a programme for economic growth, respecting standards of human rights.

Timeline of the Right to Development Discourse

Philadelphia Declaration (Article 2): All human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well being and their spiritual freedom in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity.

UN Charter (Article 55): …UN shall promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development…and…universal respect for…human rights…

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 22): Everyone…is entitled to realization…of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his free personality…

Proclamation of Tehran: The enjoyment of economic and social rights is inherently linked with any meaningful enjoyment of civil and political rights and… there is a profound interconnection between the realization of human rights and economic development.

Senegalese jurist Keba M’ Baye coins the term Right to Development in his inaugural lecture to the International Institute of Human Rights.

Resolution 4 (XXXV) of the Commission on Human Rights gives official recognition to the Right to Development.

Declaration on the Right to Development adopted.

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirm the Right to Development as a universal and inalienable human right. From Development to Right to Development: What does RTD add to development thinking?

High rates of economic growth allow fulfillment of many objectives of human and social development. Economic growth by itself, however, is not a sufficient condition for expanding capabilities and freedoms of individuals. Goods and services must be provided to expand capabilities and freedoms. The Human Rights approach provides for access and availability of goods and services, following human rights standards. It focuses on claims that individuals have on the State and other agents to secure their capabilities and freedoms. It helps establish accountability of the State and the international community. It is primarily concerned with `how’ outcomes are realized.

Thus the Right to Development approach integrates the human development approach with the human rights approach to development. Right to Development goes beyond accepting the goals of development in terms of human development. It converts those goals into rights of individuals and identifies the responsibility of all the duty holders, in accordance with human rights standards. Economic growth with equity forms a constituent element of the right to development.

Basic Rights and the Right to Development

1. Right to Food

The right to food is not just a basic human right but also a basic human need. The International Instruments which recognizes right to food are Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC). Under the Indian Constitution, there is no fundamental right to food but the fulcrum of justifiability of the right to food comes from a much broader “right to life and liberty” as enshrined in Article 21.

In India, public participation is of paramount importance. Article 10 (Part IV) of the International Code of Conduct on the right to adequate food mentions that the active participation of all civil society actors – individuals, families, local communities or nongovernmental organizations – is essential. Recently, social mobilization has begun in India in the form of public hearings. Only a participatory approach will be able to give a more humane shape and the much needed rights perspective to the Government’s policies in ensuring food and nutrition security.

2. Right to Health

Health, as described in the Preamble of the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO), 1946, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. The International Instruments, which recognizes right to health, are Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Constitution of the World Health Organization, 1946.

Although the Indian Constitution does not explicitly mention health or health care as a fundamental right, the justifiability of right to health is based on right to life and liberty (Article 21 of the Fundamental Rights). The various Directive Principles, which talks about health and health care, are Articles 39, 41, 42, and 47. In addition to the Constitution, there are five main instruments in the Indian legal system that deal with regulation of health care and safeguarding individuals against medical negligence (World Bank, 2001). These are: Law of Torts, Consumer Protection Act, 1986, Indian Penal Code, Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, Indian Contract Act, 1872.

CDHR’s work in this regard is based on the rights framework aimed at securing the objectives of the universal right to health and healthcare as determined by the Universal Declaration and the ICESCR. It is aimed at focusing and fostering research to fulfill all aspects of the Right to Health in India.

3. Right to Education

The international consensus, expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, recognizes that education is a basic human right. The right to education (RTE) has been formalized in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration which states unequivocally that “everyone has the right to education”.

In the Indian context, the realization of RTE still has some way to go. Education has finally been granted the status of a basic right in the Indian Constitution, and several schemes have been drawn up to implement RTE on the ground.

It should be duly recognized that all basic pivotal rights such as the right to food, right to health, right to education or any economic and social rights, for that matter, are interdependent. The Right to Development emphasizes this interdependent feature of these basic rights. Research at CDHR, therefore, takes the RTD framework to analyze the importance of basic rights in the improvement in the well-being of the people.

Poverty and RTD

Poverty has been in the forefront of research in economics for the last half a century. More than one billion people, a sixth of the world’s population, still live in conditions of extreme poverty and hunger. Policies for the enlistment of this geographically disparate and culturally diverse mass of humanity would require a concerted effort looking at the lessons learnt from previous work done in this field, and more importantly, to develop new frameworks for analyzing poverty.

There is an umbilical link between poverty alleviation and the implementation of the right to development framework. Research on poverty at CDHR stresses the underlying principle of RTD in designing the implementation of poverty alleviation schemes. In this respect, it is CDHR’s Endeavour to learn from the experiences of other countries and regions, and work with policy-makers and civil society organizations for a dialogue on poverty alleviation from the RTD perspective.

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