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Statement by Mr. Koen De Feyter Vice-Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development

Seventy-sixth session of the General Assembly Item 71 (a-d): Promotion and protection of human rights

New York
14 October 2021

Mr. Chairperson,
Distinguished delegates,

I have the honour to address you on behalf of the Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development and present our annual reports contained in documents A/HRC/45/29 and A/HRC/48/62.

The Expert Mechanism started operations on the 1st of May 2020 only. The Human Rights Council tasked us with providing thematic expertise on the right to development in searching for, identifying and sharing best practices with Member States and to promote the implementation of the right to development worldwide.

We are five members nominated by each regional groups, namely: Klentiana Mahmutaj from Albania; Armando Antonio De Negri Filho from Brazil, Bonny Ibhawoh from Nigeria, Mihir Kanade from India, and I, Koen De Feyter from Belgium. We were appointed for 2 periods of three years each, subject to the renewal of the Expert Mechanism mandate.

In September 2020, the Human Rights Council requested us to annually report to the General Assembly and this is the first time that we have the privilege to interact with its Third Committee. We also report to the Human Rights Council and hold two annual sessions of three days, one in New York and one in Geneva.

Mr. Chairperson,

In implementing our mandate, we have agreed on two overarching objectives that would guide our work, namely the need: to mainstream, reinvigorate and operationalize the right to development; and to enhance the ability of grass-roots organizations to advance the right to development.

We also agreed to go beyond rhetoric, to identify obstacles to the realization of the right to development and to make concrete policy recommendations on how to overcome them.

The Expert Mechanism is determined to address the three levels of responsibility regarding the right to development: (a) States acting collectively in global and regional partnerships; (b) States acting individually as they adopted and implemented policies that affected persons not strictly within their jurisdiction; and (c) States acting individually as they formulated national development policies and programmes affecting persons within their jurisdiction.

The right to development approach is ever important in the current context of building better in addressing the socio-economic impact of the pandemic including speedy and inclusive vaccination worldwide leaving no one behind.

Our working method is not limited to desk research, but involve study visits and meetings with relevant United Nations organs, specialized agencies and international financial institutions, regional organizations and other stakeholders. With this in mind, we have identified five study themes for our first 3-year term and submission to the Human Rights Council.

I am pleased to inform you that our first thematic study was already presented at the 48th session of the Council last month. It elaborates on the operationalization of the right to development in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on the targets incorporated as means of implementation. The study is contained in document A/HRC/48/63.

The second thematic study on racism, racial discrimination and the right to development will be submitted to the Human Rights Council in September 2022. The third thematic study will discuss inequalities and the right to development, whereas the fourth thematic study will address the right to development in international investment law. Finally, the fifth thematic study will focus on non-State actors and the duty to cooperate.

Mr. Chairperson,

At our sessions, all held virtually to date due to the pandemic, we held interactive dialogues with the Chair of the Working Group on the Right to Development and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development with the view to coordinate our actions and to avoid duplication. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them both for engaging with us. We also appreciate the participation in all three sessions, of representatives of Member States, United Nations entities, academics and experts, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations.

In line with its mandate, the Expert Mechanism issued a statement on COVID-19 and vaccine nationalism. We have also supported other statements and are engaging with relevant thematic issues of concern such as discussions around fair responses to the COVID-19 and to future health crisis through a Pandemic Treaty or other means.

We are currently following-up on the several parallel initiatives in international fora such as the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and within civil society, to review global and national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We believe that any global means to deal with current and future health crisis, including in the form of a Pandemic Treaty, should not undermine, replace or supersede current effective response mechanisms, but instead complement and enhance them. This must be developed in a coordinated manner with parallel initiatives and avoid contradictory or inconsistent outcomes. Most importantly, it should be aligned with existing international obligations and build on them, including the right to development and the duty of international cooperation.

Mr. Chairperson,

We welcome the views and guidance from Member States and other stakeholders on our annual reports and thematic studies. We hope that our work will contribute to the deliberations of this Committee and advance the agenda for the right to development in both achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

I thank you for your attention and look forward to our interactive dialogue.