Declaration Paved Way for Key Documents, Says President of General Assembly
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had unprecedented potential to fulfil the aspirations that had motivated the Declaration on the Right to Development, which remained critical to the present day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly today, as it convened a high-level meeting to commemorate the Declaration’s thirtieth anniversary.
Secretary-General Ban said that the 2030 Agenda explicitly recognized the Declaration and reflected its spirit. Its emphasis on equality, participation, empowerment and ensuring that no one was left behind echoed the definition of the right to development as an “inalienable human right”. Like the Declaration, it recognized that each country bore primary responsibility for its own economic and social development, while affirming that international cooperation and partnership were essential to ensuring implementation.
“In the three decades since the Declaration’s adoption, the world has changed dramatically,” the Secretary-General continued, noting that its population had increased by 50 per cent, old divides were breaking down, emerging economies were major players in global trade and dynamics, and the impact of climate change was widely recognized. Despite great strides forward, however, both developed and developing countries continued to struggle with problems ranging from financial crises to poverty, and equitable growth to rising inequality. Thanks to the 2030 Agenda, the international community had new prospects for realizing the right to development, he said.
General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said the 2030 Agenda was a testament to the global commitment to save the planet and people. In many ways, the Declaration had laid the groundwork for other key documents, from the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to the Paris Agreement on climate change, he said, emphasizing that eliminating extreme poverty, reducing poverty and placing the planet at the centre of global efforts was of critical importance.
“The task ahead is clear: deliver on the right to development,” he continued, emphasizing that during the seventy-first session, the Assembly would strive for universal progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. “Our credibility depends on achieving the 2030 Agenda,” he said, calling upon Member States to place their citizens at the heart of their development agendas. Removing historical injustices and meeting the needs of those in vulnerable situations was essential.
Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “Thirty years ago, the international community made a powerful series of commitments to change the world.” The Declaration on the Right to Development stood squarely for the fair distribution of the benefits of development without any form of discrimination, and for the right of all individuals and peoples to participate freely and fully in decision-making, he said. It also called for a new world order in which all rights and freedoms could be realized, with far greater equality of opportunity for both individuals and nations.
Warning that massive inequality, as well as the exclusion and oppression of marginalized groups, stifled development and drove much of the world’s recent unrest and conflict, he encouraged all stakeholders to approach the anniversary with a real sense of urgency. Describing the right to development as the normative core of the 2030 Agenda, he said the Declaration’s anniversary also reminded the world that vulnerable and marginalized people — including migrants, indigenous peoples, other minorities and persons with disabilities — had a right to development. The true purpose of any economic endeavour was to improve people’s well-being, not to build towers of individual wealth upon their labour, he stressed.
Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said the Declaration’s visionary nature lay in its broad understanding of development that went beyond economic indicators. The document raised the need to address systemic issues in order to ensure no one was left behind, he said, emphasizing the need to examine contemporary challenges in a similar way.
Highlighting several such challenges, he said the world remained slow to comprehend the needs of its emerging and most vulnerable countries, especially those struggling with debt. Calling for a rules-based system that would better address the debt issue, he also cautioned that some current investment agreements denied countries the space to deal adequately with the needs of their peoples. In addition, the current backlash against globalization underlined the need to better manage it by paying greater attention to rising inequality.
During the ensuing dialogue, several speakers stressed that the rationale behind the Declaration had been to create suitable conditions at the national, regional and international levels to improve the quality of people’s lives. Strongly grounded in international human rights standards, the 2030 Agenda sought to leave no one behind, while placing the imperative of equality and non-discrimination at its heart. Sadly, the world continued to see millions of people who lived without realizing their right to dignity, freedom, and equal opportunity. One of the main concerns in that regard was the lack of consensus on the means of implementation in order to realize universal goals.
Stavros Lambrinidis, Special Representative on Human Rights of the European Union, emphasized that States were primarily responsible for ensuring that the right to development was realized. While doing so, however, it would not be appropriate to create a binding international legal standard. The 2030 Agenda marked a paradigm shift towards a more balanced form of sustainable development, and would open new avenues for integrating human rights into global and national policies over the next 15 years, he said. The European Union, for its part, would establish an integrated and systematic monitoring system to keep track of progress.
Delcy Rodriguez, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, spoke on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, as well as the Non-Aligned Movement, underlining that the gap between developed and developing nations remained unacceptably wide. The right to development must be central to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the situations of countries and peoples who faced specific challenges should be taken into account. The world’s current hegemonic economic model, which had led to suffering around the globe, must be transformed into a new world order based on sovereignty and equality of all States, she said.
In similar vein, Miguel Vargas Maldonado, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, appealed — on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) — to States and partners to step up efforts to effectively protect and promote the right to development. Pledging to adopt the policies needed to ensure inclusiveness throughout the region, he vowed to base efforts to eradicate poverty and inequality on the 2030 Agenda. In that regard, a broader discussion would be needed on the evaluation criteria used to allocate financing for international development, in particular official development assistance (ODA). Increased financial and technological assistance would be critical in that regard.
Sharing national experiences, Tsend Munkh-Orgil, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, said his country had made significant progress towards realizing the right to development. It had made steady progress in education and health, and the economy had grown at an annual rate of 8 per cent since 2000, he said, adding, however, that the growth rate was not sufficient.
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, underscored the need to promote and sustain arrangements that would facilitate meaningful national development. The Government of Nigeria continued to fight corruption and illicit financial flows in order to ensure the country’s development.
Vice-President Muhammad Jusuf Kalla of Indonesia said that his Government had finalized legal and institutional frameworks for implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It had developed national and subnational action plans, in addition to having reduced public spending on the national fuel subsidy and enhanced the budgetary allocation for social development programmes.
Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government and other high-ranking Government officials from Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Luxembourg, Philippines, Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Belgium, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guinea, Liechtenstein, Eritrea, Namibia, Paraguay, Kenya, Cuba, Bangladesh, Ireland, Maldives, China, South Africa, Viet Nam, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Russian Federation, Guatemala, Chile, Senegal, Niger, India, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Italy, Qatar, Peru, Argentina, Denmark, Sudan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Togo, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Brazil, Iran and the State of Palestine.