Debating Development as a Human Right: a conceptual history of the politics in the formation of the right to development at the United Nations
Published inJYU dissertations
© The Author & University of Jyväskylä
This study offers a conceptual history of the politics in the formation of the right to development concept at the United Nations. It focuses on a particular moment in that history, namely the passing of UNCHR resolution 4 (XXXIII) of 21 February 1977, which called for a study of “the right to development as a human right”. As the analysis uncovers, such a resolution would have been impossible some ten years earlier, as UN staff and member states largely conceptualized development and human rights as competing rather than completing concerns. At the heart of the analysis is thus a conceptual shift in the understanding of the relationship between development and human rights. The central objective of this study is to render intelligible this conceptual change as a rhetorical redescription (indebted to the work of Quentin Skinner), and draw attention to the revisions that this redescription was aiming to bring about to two key concepts in UN politics. To that aim, the analysis proceeds on two levels. One consists in a study of relevant debates between representatives of member states at the UNCHR, from the end of the 1960s to the second half of the 1970s. On that level, the analytical narrative emphasizes the various shifts in the political constellations of these debates, including shifts within and between geopolitical blocs. The other level includes the writings of those “innovative ideologists” (Skinner) who served as special rapporteurs or initiators of resolutions relevant to the subject matter of this study at the UNCHR. On that level, the narrative emphasizes the arguments used by innovative ideologists (i.e. Hernán Santa Cruz, Manouchehr Ganji and Kéba M’Baye) in the debates to justify the acceptance of certain resolutions or proposals. It also draws attention to the work of reflection conducted outside of the UNCHR by these innovative ideologists on the concepts of development and human rights. By combining the two levels of analysis, the narrative reveals how these innovative ideologists were able to launch novel expressions and formulations at the UNCHR and to persuade member state representatives to accept them, albeit with varying degrees of success, at various stages of the debates. Ultimately, this study illustrates how raising the question of how the right to development was recognized as a human right by representatives of states rather than theorists before being integrated into UN practice and policy can prove illuminating with respect to claims about the scope and contents of the said right that have been made in the debate so far. By uncovering the historical context and political process through which the concept of development was redescribed as a human right, its competing interpretations and the historically possible alternatives that were expressed contemporarily to it, we might contribute to better inform current debates on its possibility, reasonability and desirability for evaluating our past(s) and shaping our future(s). ...
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