A group of UN human rights specialists* have issued an urgent call for action to ensure a future based on equality, justice and solidarity. In a statement marking the 31st anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development on 4 December, the experts stress the critical need to act now on sustainable development. Their full statement is as follows:
“We have to work for equality and justice today so it can also benefit the people of tomorrow. This principle has to be at the very core of the development process.
Let us never lose sight of the fact that this world will be the one we leave for generations to come. Our responsibilities as global citizens extend beyond the current generation.
Damage to the environment, improper use of arable lands, climate change, increasing concentration of land in the hands of a few, rapid demographic shifts, conflicts, unfair trade and uncontrolled extractive industries are placing unprecedented pressure on the planet’s ecosystems, and threatening the livelihoods and wellbeing of billions of people across the globe.
Progress in expanding the use of sustainable energy has already fallen short of what is needed to meet the globally agreed 2030 targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Global figures suggest that attempts to uncouple economic growth from increased use of natural resources are also failing. This trend flies in the face of humanity’s stated – and internationally agreed – aim of achieving more sustainable production.
Rapid urbanization and gentrification have brought enormous challenges, including growing numbers of slums, inadequate basic services and infrastructure, increased air pollution and environmental degradation. As cities across the globe become more vulnerable to disasters, reducing risks of these disasters is crucial if development is to be sustainable for the future.
There has never been a more urgent need to empower people and build community resilience.
Our societies can only become resilient with the involvement of the people and groups affected by change. This process needs participation, transparency, inclusiveness, non-discrimination and fairness, so that risks and resources – and all the benefits of development – are distributed in a more balanced way between people, places and generations. This is the essence of the right to development.
This also requires adequate and accessible ways for governments and all other parties to be held to account for their decisions and actions.
Within countries, cultural heritage and traditional knowledge have to be used as resources in reducing disaster risks, and no effort should be spared to preserve ancestral knowledge, including indigenous knowledge, in managing natural resources. We reiterate the numerous calls for the full respect of the rights of indigenous peoples who are entitled to define their own development priorities.
We also stress that every single human being has a responsibility for development, both individually and collectively. We can all develop sustainable consumption habits and we can all spread the message about why they matter.
Equal and equitable development requires that no one is left behind. It is crucial that youth around the world be empowered to be the driving force of tomorrow, including through sustainable employment opportunities.
It is critical to ensure that women are equal participants and beneficiaries in the development process and that their access to decent work and equal rights to economic resources, access to ownership and control of land and natural resources are ensured and enforced.
Global sustainable development requires effective international cooperation. This shared work has to be built on the common interest in protecting the planet and its people and the principle of equality, but must also recognise that States have different responsibilities and capabilities.
Without adequate transfer and sharing of environmentally sound technology and scientific knowledge, it will be impossible to foster environmentally sound production, the management and safe use of chemicals, the reduction and recycling of waste, and the more efficient use of water and energy. These are essential for achieving sustainable development globally.
The remaining challenges are enormous but not insurmountable. We urge all UN Member States to strengthen their action, to act rapidly to mobilise sufficient financial resources. We call for the rapid implementation of environmentally sound technologies in all countries and the sharing of these technologies among countries on favourable terms.”
*The UN experts: Mr. Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development; Ms. Ikponwosa Ero, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism; Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; Mr. Alfred de Zayas, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Mr. Obiora C. Okafor, Independent expert on human rights and international solidarity; The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; and the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.
The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.