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Making Right to Development a Uniting, Rather than Divisive, Issue on the Human Rights Agenda
September 14, 2011

UN Human Rights Council – 18th Session

Geneva- September 14, 2011


Panel on the Realization of the Right to Development


Statement of the Delegation of the United States

Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  We thank the panelists for their thoughtful presentations.

The United States has some well-known concerns about the “right to development.”  To move forward, we would like to consider ways we can work together constructively and make the right to development a uniting, rather than divisive, issue on the international human rights agenda.

Fostering development continues to be a cornerstone of U.S. international engagement, and we are the largest bilateral donor of overseas development assistance.  President Obama, in his speech at the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Review last September, reaffirmed  the United States’ strong support for achievement of the MDGs and announced a new U.S. Global Development Policy that guides our overall development efforts.

The United States is committed to development, but we continue to have concerns about the direction discussions on the right to development have taken over the years.

We are willing to work with the proponents of the right to development to expand the consensus on this topic in a way that will be mutually beneficial, if we take into account the following five points:

First, discussions and resolutions on the right to development should not include unrelated material on controversial topics, particularly topics that are being addressed elsewhere.  For example, the most recent version of the annual UNGA Third Committee resolution on the right to development contains 41 operative paragraphs, as opposed to four operative paragraphs in the most recent Human Rights Council resolution on the same topic.

Second, we are not prepared to join consensus on the possibility of negotiating a binding international agreement on this topic.  At the very least, we would need more of a shared consensus on the definition and nature of the right to development before considering whether such a time- and resource-intensive course of action would be necessary and beneficial.

Third, theoretical work is needed to define the right to development and in particular to explain how it is a human right, i.e., a universal right that every individual possesses and may demand from his or her own government.  This fundamental concern has not been adequately addressed.

Fourth, the recent efforts to come up with numeric or concrete indicators of development and its progress are interesting and warrant serious further consideration, though these efforts should leverage, not duplicate, the statistics of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, regional UN statistical agencies, and the work done to monitor the Millennium Development Goals.

Finally, discussion of this topic needs to focus on aspects of development that relate to human rights, i.e., those of individuals.  Of course, that includes all human rights, civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

While we are strong supporters of international development, we have long expressed significant concerns about some understandings and interpretations of the right to development.  We are willing to work to address those concerns in order to move forward on this important topic.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.