The concept of development is usually deﬁned as an effort to improve people’s lives and wellbeing. Yet its origins lie in the economic efforts led by the USA to mitigate the ravages of World War II, and models such as the Marshall Plan were designed to lead to the economic recovery of Europe. More recently, development has been equated ever more closely to economic growth.
Based on the outcomes of the Marshall Plan, the provision of what came to be known as ‘development assistance’ was designed to help establish economic structures and political stability and thus to prevent the spread of communism. Development assistance was seen as a means to help what were then called “third world” countries to develop and encourage proﬁtable economic activity. It was also used as a foreign policy initiative to bind the possible emerging economies politically to the providers of assistance (the relationship between PNG and Australia is a prime example).
Following decolonisation in the 1960s, more and more countries became the targets for development assistance, with some becoming dependent on foreign aid to survive. As decolonisation proceeded, the United Nations grew exponentially and begun to provide a forum for the expression of dissatisfaction at the economic balance which became known as the developed and underdeveloped world (the latter term soon morphing into “developing”). The “developing world” began to question this imbalance, basing its arguments on the undeniable fact that the developed world had only become such through the exploitation of the resources of the former colonies.
This is certainly the case with PNG and a case can be made that colonisation continues within the relationship between PNG and Australia and that the Bretton Woods Institutions have done little to rebalance the economic inequities between former colonies and the colonisers that seem to be accentuated as time goes on.
Globally, the push for economic rebalancing was shepherded through the UN to culminate in the 1986 UN Declaration on the Right to Development (UNDHR).
The Right to Development remains a contested right due to the lack of consensus on its precise meaning and the tension between those who focus on its global redistributive impetus and those who want to emphasise the human dimension of development and on people’s wellbeing.
1. The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realised...
1. The human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneﬁciary of the right to development.
The main value of the Declaration lies in the insistence that “the subject of development is the human person” and that development can only be achieved through the realisation of human rights.
By placing the individual at the centre of development activities and proclaiming an integrated vision of all human rights, the Declaration is a vehicle for the indivisibility and complementarity of different categories of human rights and for recognising the promotion and protection of all human rights as the basis and measure of sustainable development.
Mary Robinson, Former High Commissioner for Human Rights
Unlike the UDHR, however, due to its contested nature, the Declaration on the Right to Development does not have the force of customary (in its international human rights law deﬁnition) law and is not even morally enforceable.
Following the adoption of the Declaration, the UN convened a series of historically important conferences in the 1990s: the World Summit for Children (1990); the UN Conference on Environment and Development (1992); the World Conference on Human Rights (1993); the International Conference on Population and Development (1994); the World Summit for Social Development (1995); the Fourth World Conference on the Status of Women (1995); the Second UN Conference on the Status of Women (1996); and the World Food Summit (1996).
Each of these resulted in a declaration outlining the commitments by the governments of the world to work cooperatively to promote sustainable development and to respect and protect human rights.
Read the Declaration on the Right to Development. What aspects of the Declaration could be raised in arguing against the economic growth model that is the foundation of the events at Paga Hill?