The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, in  cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the UN and other International Organizations in Switzerland, organized a panel discussion entitled “The Right to Development, 30 years later: achievements, challenges and the way forward”, which took pla ce at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on 5 December 2016. The discussion was an opportunity to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development, as well as the 2016 International Human Rights Day.

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre’s Board of Management, H. E. Dr. Hanif Al Qassim, and H. E. Mr. Vaqif Sadiqov, Ambassador and Permanent Representati ve of Azerbaijan to the UN and other international organizations in Switzerland delivered inaugural addresses.

Panel members were: Ambassador Zamir Akram, Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on the Right to Development; Dr. Manuel Montes, Senior Advisor on Finance and Development at The South Centre; Prof. Koen de Feyter, Chair of International Law at the University of Antwerp; and Prof. Dr. Nico Schrijver , Chair of Public International Law and Academic Director of Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at Leiden University, and Expert Member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The discussion was moderated by Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre.

In his opening address, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre’s Board of Management highlighted the nexus between human rights and development, noting that the above-mentioned celebrations marked by the panel discussion were clouded by the global threats to human rights around the world. Dr. Al Qassim regretted that the ongoing violence, conflict and displ acement were in contradiction with the vision expressed by the Declaration in 1986.

Dr. Al Qassim noted that against this dismal background of violence, there had been an increase in Islamophobia and unfavourable views of Muslims across Europe and the US, during the p ast year. This resulted in the mainstreaming of the anti-Muslim discourse which aroused dormant racism and thus amplified xenophobic sentiment.

Dr. Al Qassim also noted the need to recognize the advancements in terms of development achieved over the past thirty years. He concluded his intervention by recalling the negative imp act of the ongoing violence that was trampling on both human rights and development. He then encouraged the audience to use the opportunity of the discussion to revitalize commitments for both human rights and development.

Ambassador Vaqif Sadiqov also delivered an opening address, highlighting that according to the Declaration 1986, the Right to Development was an individual and a colle ctive right belonging to all individuals and peoples. Ambassador Sadiqov underlined the co-relationship between the Declaration and the SDGs, and highlighted the responsibility of States to create conditions favourable to the realization of this right. He noted that the articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution of Azerbaijan recognized the Right to Development.

Ambassador Sadiqov also mentioned the achievements of Azerbaijan in terms of MDGs, as well as the improvement in its rating in human development index. He noted that, at the national l evel, Azerbaijan was in the process of adopting its national sustainable development strategy as a reflection of the SDGs. At the international level, as an emerging donor country and als o as a newly elected ECOSOC member, the country was taking an active part in international development efforts.

In his statement, Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre and Moderator of the panel, saluted the progress made at the international legisla tive level since 2015, pointing to the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development,the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the Paris Agreement u nder the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted after the Paris Climate Conference in 2015. He deplored, however, the collapse of the international consensus that used to prevail at the time of the adoption of the Declaration in 1986, or in 1998 for the adoption of the Human Rights Commission resolution 1998/72 establishing the Independent Expert a nd the Open-Ended Working Group, and that had nowadays unfortunately dissolved, as shown by the latest debates on the adoption of Human Rights Council Resolution 33/L.29.

Ambassador Jazairy also underlined the adverse impact that the persisting violence engulfing the MENA region and spilling into the Global North had had on the Right to Development, als o adding that the insecurity of the current global economic situation was gravely hindering the development process. He emphasized the crucial importance of an enabling international envi ronment for the operationalization of the Right to Development, quoting among others, Article 4 of the 1986 Declaration that stressed theessential role of international cooperation as an essential complement to national efforts. Ambassador Jazairy concluded his intervention by recalling the importance of recognizing the Right to Development as a universal right, applicabl e erga omnes, as well as the crucial need of enhancing the Declaration on the Right to Development by including it in the International Bill of Human Rights.

Ambassador Zamir Akram noted in his statement that the Right to Development still remained to be fully realized, due, among others, to inequality, denial of self-deter mination and persistence of conflicts. He deplored that some states in the West questioned the Right to Development as a human right, highlighting that countries should put aside their di fferences and commit to upholding the most fundamental of human rights, the right to a better existence for all human beings.

Dr. Manuel Montes spoke of the slow progress in solving developmental issues at the international level, which affected disproportionately developing countries, the po or as well as indigenous peoples, who were also not represented adequately in decision-making platforms. Insisting on the importance of inclusiveness, Dr. Montes recalled the need to tran slate the ringing phrases from the 1986 Declaration into benchmarks, and secure access to international decision-making process for all stakeholders.

Professor Koen de Feyter of the University of Antwerp focused on two core roles of the Right to Development, namely in expanding the ability of human rights to contrib ute to social justice within societies, and in addressing inequality among societies more effectively. In terms of global responsibility, Professor De Feyter noted that human rights treat y law provided a system for allocating, rather than sharing responsibility, and was inadequately equipped to offer an appropriate response to the human rights needs of the global poor in the South, and in the North. In this sense, he recalled that there was a need to breathe life into the duty to cooperate for the implementation of human rights. He also noted that in the fact of regarding development as not only an individual right, but also as a group right, helped in increasing the relevance of human rights to more people.

Professor Dr. Nico Schrijver retraced the background of the Right to Development, and analysed its meaning according to the 1986 Declaration.  He mentioned that, from the point of view of the legal status in international law, the right to development was well anchored, and concluded by stating that there was a special momentum with the adoption of the SDGs for moving further with the right to development, expressing the hope that the year to come would see concrete measures in this direction. Professor Schrijver noted the Right to Dev elopment bridged economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights and thus, it connected individual and peoples’ rights, collective human rights.

During the lively debate with the audience that followed, H. E. Mr. Obaid Salem Saeed Al Zaabi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Arab Emirates to the UN deliv ered a statement in which he encouraged the media and civil society to be more involved in the implementation of this right. He mentioned the importance of participation and transparency, international cooperation on transnational issues and inclusive societies. Welcoming the newly established UN Special Rapporteur on this issue, he urged the mandate-holder to widen the s cope and implementation of the right in the context of the 2030 Agenda.  Ambassador Al Zaabi presented the successful experience of the United Arab Emirates, speaking spoke of its compreh ensive development policy, including women empowerment and investment in all sectors of the society, and of the numerous development initiatives around the world supported by the Abu Dhab i Fund for Development.

A representative of the European Union Permanent Mission in Geneva reiterated the support for the Right to Development and particularly, the human-rights based approach to this right t hat placed the as individual at the centre of the process. He saluted the consensus on the primary responsibility of States concerning implementation, and however the different views in t he understanding of the Right to Development, notably as it concerned the way forward and the adoption of a legally binding document. From the point of view of the EU, the 2030 Agenda and the consensus around it marked a paradigm shift. The representative of the European Union proceeded to presenting the latest policy developments adopted at the EU level with regard to th e implementation of Agenda 2030, mentioning the “Proposal for a New European Consensus for Development” recently released by the by EU Commission, and the policy documents “Next steps for a sustainable European future – European Action for Sustainability” – to be launched soon in Brussels.

The panel discussion was attended by numerous diplomats representing more than 35 Permanent Missions in Geneva, as well as representatives of various NGOs and specialists in the field of human rights.

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