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Remarks by DHC Kate Gilmore at the African Group Side Event on The Right to Development

Tuesday, 1 March 2016, 2-4 p.m.
Room XXIII, Palais des Nations


Distinguished Moderator, Excellencies, colleagues and friends,

On behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights I offer kind congratulations to the African Group on this timely initiative.  I am indeed honored to contribute.

And this is surely the right group of Member States to convene us for this purpose.  After all, great jurists of the Africa continent helped craft the very contours of the right to development including Mohammed Bedjaoui, Georges Abi-Saab and Judge Keba Mbaye. 

It is by their legacy that this right is made legally binding under the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as both a collective and an individual right - recognizing in this, duties to all humanity.

Of course, there is much to be proud of - in the many steps that since have been taken towards realizing this vision, a quest for both ‘bread and ballots’, to honor the words of the incomparable Nelson Mandela.

Although celebrated today under the shadow of the many crises facing the world, this 30th Anniversary of the 1986 United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development delivers to us new children of its promise and its hope: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development and the Paris Climate Agreement are born too of the right to development, and in these we have renewed promise, new impetus to realize its vision and we must be made newly accountable for that delivery.

The signs that we can transform peoples’ enjoyment of the right to development are all around us. By the end of last year, the number of people living in extreme poverty around the world likely fell to under 10 percent. This underscores the extraordinary opportunity and the deep responsibility of the truth that we are the first generation in all of human history that can end extreme poverty.

But to do that, you know far better than I, we must first tackle inequality. For despite record economic growth, millions of people have been left behind, millions left out.  Progress quite simply is uneven.  In Africa, in “least developed” countries, in “landlocked developing” countries, and “small island developing” States but within developed countries too.

Persistent poverty and deepening inequalities are a major threat to human rights and development, and thus directly to peace and security too.

Over the past five years, the decrease in violence that the world had enjoyed up to 2010 tragically has been reversed. Violence – including in Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Yemen - has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forcibly displaced millions from their homes.

This too is the business of the declaration on the right to development.  For fully realized, that right offers much needed prevention - it can address root causes and it can help meet structural challenges at all levels. 

And at the international level too – where some of those challenges originate in our failure to regulate globalization sufficiently. The engines of globalization - trade, investment, finance, and intellectual property and the movement of people - must be made compatible with the human rights obligations of States.

Global development cannot mean that people are denied their access to essential medicines. That small-land-holding farmers are denied fair earnings. That the impoverished are further trapped in countries with unsustainable debt.

And yet, agricultural subsidies, speculation in futures markets, vulture funds, transfer mispricing and other practices are somehow tolerated, and then even exacerbated by corruption.   This all despite the ample and detailed evidence that these are practices that deny people their right to development:

·    Today just 62 individuals alone hold the same wealth as 3.6 billion others combined - half of humanity!

·    And reportedly around 7.6 trillion USD of personal wealth is hidden in offshore accounts with devastating impacts on developing countries.

·    Africa alone is losing 50 billion USD each year in illicit financial outflows stemming from fraudulent schemes to avoid tax payments.

·    Did it make into our accounts of success and failure under the MDGS that military spending in the African region – over the life of the MDGs - increased by more than 91 per cent to reach over 50 billion USD in 2014?

Taken together, these realities mean that each year Africa loses over 100 billion USD that otherwise could have/should have been spent on realizing the right of development.  But in this loss that is promises made but not met, Africa is not alone.

·    OECD DAC countries give 135 billion USD in total ODA. This is equivalent to a mere 0.29 per cent of their gross national income as opposed to the 0.7 per cent to which they committed long ago.

And meanwhile, climate change is compounding food insecurity and changing farming patterns, on a continent largely dependent on agriculture, affecting those who have the least, the most and the worst.

At the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights we have worked to bring greater definition and conceptual clarity to the right to development - through our research, dialogue, outreach and collaboration.  But human rights are inter-dependent, as indivisible as they are universal -  thus all our efforts are supportive of the right to development and each is directed to the implementation of 2030 Agenda. 
As the High Commissioner emphasized this morning – people who are hungry are not people who are free.  But freedom is not merely the absence of iron bars or small cells.  The prison of prejudice, the prison of bigotry, as with the prison of poverty, confines freedom, stymies human talent and creativity and thus is always a threat to development.
Like the Declaration itself, the 2030 Agenda’s promise is “to leave no one behind” starting first where ever possible with those “furthest behind”.  It pledges us to ensuring that SDG targets are met “for all nationals and peoples and for all segments of society”.

Thus is it clear that the 2030 Agenda is a child of the right to development. As such, it must not be stunted by indifferent action, malnourished by failed commitments or denied safe passage to its fullest realization just because of the inconvenience of what undoubtedly are tough but needed demands.

On behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, I pledge his - our - full support for the realization of the right to development for all individuals and all peoples – to the exclusion of none of us, for the dignity of each of us, in the interests of all of us - on and for the continent that you hold so dear and from there onto all others. 

Thank you.