“A human right to development – Moving beyond the rhetoric”, by Salma Yusuf and Jennifer Woodham


It is argued – and generally accepted – that although there has been observed a general willingness to express rhetorical support for a human right to development (RTD), there has been observed a related tendency to ‘neglect its basic precepts in development practice’. Consequently, there exists a significant gulf between the ‘rhetoric’ and the ‘reality’ of development practice.

This paper examines the reasons for the gap between rhetoric and reality and then moves on to determine strategies to reduce or indeed bridge this gap, which would in turn contribute to the realization of a full protection to the human right to development.

The current mechanisms for implementing RTD are assessed, and an analysis of the possible approaches to overcome their difficulties is discussed. The conclusion reached is that, in order to move development beyond rhetoric, the current systems need to be given greater authority, and wider mandates. Further, it is observed that the current internationally agreed definition of the right to development needs to be expanded upon, with increased specificity and consensus reached on what the right should entail.

A caveat is in order. It should be borne in mind that ways of advancing the human right to development considered in this paper are not exhaustive. However, it is hoped that the issues addressed will inform the work of practitioners in the development field so that there can be generated a greater momentum towards a full and meaningful human right to development, both nationally and internationally.

Title: A human right to development – Moving beyond the rhetoric

Lead authors: Salma Yusuf and Jennifer Woodham

Date: March 2012

Published by the Institute of Human Rights of Sri Lanka


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