Home > Features > 2015·Beijing Forum on Human Rights > Papers(Abstract) > Sub Topic 3 >

LI Buyun Scientific Connotations of the Right to Development and China’s Practice
September 18,2015   By:chinahumanrights.org

LI Buyun

Scientific Connotations of the Right to Development
and China’s Practice

On the world stage, the Third World countries actively claimed their rights centered on development and promoted the formation of the concept of the right to development. In 1970, Keba M’Baye, member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, clearly put forward in his report The Right to Development as a Human Right the concept of "right to development". In 1979, on the thirty-fourth UN General Assembly, Resolution 34/36 was adopted, stating that the right to development is a human right and equal opportunities of development is the natural right of all countries. In 1986, the UN General Assembly adopted in Resolution 41/128 the Declaration on the Right to Development, interpreting from the general sense the subject, content, status, ways of protection, and realization for the right to development. In 1993, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action once again reaffirmed that the right to development is an inalienable human right. The present thesis focuses on the two above-mentioned international documents, in view of China's practice, to define the scientific connotations of the right to development.

The right to development is different from development. It is a right, while development is a philosophical concept, referring to evolutionary process of everything from lower to higher stage. To become a right in the real sense of the world, the right to development must have three basic elements: First, subject of the right, that is, who will be granted the right; the second is content, namely, the claim for right by the legal subject; third, the subject of obligations, namely, who or which organization shall bear the obligations and responsibilities for the claim. To clarify this problem, the right to development must be interpreted in the narrow and broad senses.

Right to development in the broad sense is an individual human right. Its basis in international law is Paragraph13 of the "Preamble" to Declaration on the Right to Development adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1986. The paragraph states: "Recognizing that the human person is the central subject of the development process and development policy should therefore make the human being the main participant and beneficiary of development". The statement is applicable to both the developed and developing countries. Any individual in any country has the right to participate in development and equally share the fruits of development. This right is applicable to millionaires and the homeless alike. However, the actual beneficiaries are those at the bottom of society. Due to their disadvantaged status in society, they often do not have the right or freedom to participate in development, and it is difficult for them to equally enjoy the right to the development achievements of their countries.

Right to development in the broad sense is individual human rights, with connotations and significance applicable to every country. The primary manifest and application of the right to development in China is the Scientific Outlook on Development. The theory believes that people-orientation should be the core of the Scientific Outlook on Development, the main content should be development for and by the people, and the fruits of development should be shared by the people. This statement is proposed primarily from the perspective of individual human rights. However, according to the narrow interpretation of Declaration on the Right to Development, certain regions and nations of a state should be given a special right to development. For example, in China, the western regions and ethnic minority areas have long been in a backward situation, due to geographical and historical reasons. In accordance with the three theoretical bases of the right to development in the narrow sense, the people in these areas should have the right to equal opportunities as the eastern regions, and the state has the responsibility to adopt various policies to speed up their development.

A comprehensive understanding of the scientific connotations and significance of the right to development needs recognition of the right to development and the right to life as the most important human rights. The two are closely linked. Although people's understanding of the right to life varies, one thing is universally acknowledged, that is, it is a "comprehensive" right. The present author holds that, as the name implies, the right to life should take as its basic connotation the right to survive, and live a decent life with dignity. Therefore, the primary basis for this right in international law should be the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

China has made great efforts in realizing and protecting the right to development, with great achievements. Its understanding and position of the right to development is both narrow and broad and it adheres to the belief that the right to life and the right to development are the most important human rights. Since its entry into a new era in 1978 via reform and opening up, China witnessed a growth rate of 10% in its GDP annually for more than ten years consecutively, thereby creating a miracle of economic development in the world. It has grown to be the second-largest economy of the world, and people's living standards have been greatly improved. This could not have been possible without its staunch implementation of the policies of "development by the people, the fruits of development for the people" and special assistance to the western regions and ethnic minority areas.

Today, China remains the largest developing country, faced with the grim situation and tasks of maintaining sustainable development. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee put forward the strategic approach of "Four Comprehensives", changing the "basic role" of market economy to "fundamental role", stressing the need to "separate government functions from commune management", adhering to decentralization, strengthening the social security system, and continuing to increase aid to the ethnic minorities and western regions. All those efforts are aimed at protecting the right to development, in order to mobilize the initiative, enthusiasm, and creativity of the masses to participate in development and maintain the trend of the state becoming increasingly prosperous and the people increasingly happy.

(The author is Dean of Institute for Human Rights, Guangzhou University.)