Is economic development a “fundamental human right?” If so, should this “right” be enforceable under international law?
If you said, “No,” you may be among the minority of Earth’s inhabitants. The majority of the nations of the world believe that “economic development” is a fundamental human right. The majority, that is, not including the world’s wealthiest countries (United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Israel, etc.).
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights for example, provides that:
Article 22 Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
The Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order, promoted by the world’s poor countries, states that the right to development is a fundamental human right that is derived from the right to self-determination. In 1986, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Right of Development (链接到外部网站。) , which proclaimed:
The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.
At the 1992 Rio Conference on Environment and Development (链接到外部网站。), participating states adopted the Rio Declaration (链接到外部网站。), Principle 3 of which declared:
The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.
The United States, as might be expected, objected to the Rio Declaration, stating:
The United States does not, by joining consensus on the Rio Declaration, change its long standing opposition to the so-called right to development. Development is not a right. On the contrary, development is a goal that we all hold, which depends for its realization in large part on the promotion and protection of the human rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In 1993, poor countries managed to include in the Declaration of the Vienna Human Rights Conference a provision that the right to development is a “universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights,” with the caveat that “the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgment of internationally recognized human rights.”
So, where do you stand, with the poor countries or the rich? If economic development is a fundamental human right, then efforts by interest groups in the rich countries to prevent the “outsourcing of jobs” and to erect protectionist barriers to trade might be construed as violation of fundamental human rights.