And it is not simply about economic growth
The recent focus on corruption and many other malpractices within the socio-economic paradigm has persuaded economists and social scientists to re-visit the challenges being faced in the arena of successful development as envisaged within the goals set forth earlier through the MDGs, and now through the SDGs.
Analysts have now come to the general conclusion that the right to development is an indivisible, inter-dependent, inter-related, and mutually inclusive individual and collective right, which belongs to all individuals without discrimination on any grounds.
Consequently, it was interesting to know that the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) states had agreed to undertake coordinated and accelerated actions in this regard to reduce corruption, promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, good governance, rule of law, democracy, and accountability within member countries.
The OIC secretary general has also correctly observed that the inability among many member states of the OIC to put an end to the problem is presenting itself as an obstacle towards achieving good governance, sustainable development, and reduction of poverty.
It may be recalled that the right to development was first recognized in 1981 in Article 22 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights as a definitive individual and collective right. Subsequently, it was proclaimed by the United Nations in 1986. The right to development is now included in the mandate of several UN institutions and offices.
It is this aspect that requires one to also refer to the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action where Article 10 states: “The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms the ‘right to development’ as established in the Declaration on the Right to Development, as a universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights.”
This means that states should cooperate with each other in ensuring development and eliminating obstacles to development. The international community should also promote effective international cooperation for the realization of the right to development and the elimination of obstacles to development.
Lasting progress towards its implementation would consequently require effective development policies at the national level, as well as equitable economic relations and a favourable economic environment at the international level.
It would also be pertinent at this point to refer to two other declarations:
The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which recognizes the right to development as one of its 27 principles. In fact, principle 3 of the declaration states that “the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.”
Article 23 of the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples recognizes their right to development as an indigenous people’s right. It elaborates that “indigenous people have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, indigenous people have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing, and other economic and social programs affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programs through their own institutions.”
As such, in the arena of development -- be it in a developed country, developing country, or in a least developed country -- right to development must not be politicized or be partial in approach in determination of priority.
One needs to acknowledge here that the MDGs have served as a successful framework to guide international development efforts. It has helped to reduce extreme poverty rate, provide access to safe drinking water, tackling problems of malaria, and gender equality in schooling.
Succeeding the MDG agenda, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were created, with 169 indicators. The goals came into force in January 2016, focusing on areas of climate change, economic inequality, democracy, poverty, and peace building.
Although the SDGs were built on the foundation of the MDGs, there are some key differences in both processes. Before adoption, unlike the MDGs, the SDGs had been in discussion for months, involving civil society actors, NGOs, as well as, an opening summit involving inter-governmental negotiations.
This new global development agenda places a greater emphasis on collective action, combining the efforts of multiple stakeholders to increase the sustainability of the goals. This emphasis on sustainability has also led to more cross-sector partnerships, and combined international efforts across areas of environmental, social, cultural, political, educational, and economic development.
Bangladesh has been taking the meeting of the SDGs seriously. We are moving forward. However, at the same time, it has been noted by analysts that there are areas where our functional equation for sustainable development requires not only greater strengthening of engagement with other regional institutions but also wider skill development and better regulatory governance.
This will encourage foreign direct investment and help Bangladesh rid itself of extreme poverty and move faster up the socio-economic ladder towards being a developed country.
We must also remember that development is not simply about economic growth. It is also about giving people the ability to live their lives to their fullest potential.
Muhammad Zamir, a former ambassador, is an analyst specialized in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance. He can be reached at [email protected]