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Master of Studies in Law




Professor Michael Lynk


This thesis concerns the Right to Development (the R2D), which was declared an inalienable human right by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in the non-binding Declaration on the Right to Development (the DR2D) in 1986. It asserts that the R2D was not declared in a realizable manner, explaining the causes of identified doctrinal shortcomings. It explores the emergence of the R2D within the confluence of two post-1945 movements, being decolonization and the international human rights project, asserting that these movements were closely intertwined and substantively influenced by jurists from the Global South. The thesis then examines the political evolution of the R2D within the UNGA, asserting that shortcomings of the DR2D were the result of politicization and resistance to the acceptance of accountability with respect to R2D realization by powerful states, led by the USA. It argues that the R2D ought to be framed as a central component of the binding Right to Self Determination (the R2SD), such that the R2D ought to be interpreted as a binding right to the process of self-determined development. This assertion is illustrated through examination of R2D (non)realization and R2SD (non)observance in the occupied Palestinian Territories, a situation of settler colonization characterized by economic de-development, and deprivations with respect to ‘development as freedom’, a lens suggested by the work Amartya Sen.

Summary for Lay Audience

The Declaration on the Right to Development (the “DR2D”) is a non-binding UN declaration, concerning the human right to development (the “R2D”). The DR2D states that the R2D 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 realized. Domestically, states accept a duty to establish appropriate national development policies to constantly improve the well-being of their entire population and of all individuals, ensuring their right to freely participate in the process of development, and to enjoy the benefits of that development. Internationally, states accept a duty to co-operate with each other in ensuring development and eliminating obstacles to development, and to formulate international development policies that facilitate full realization of the R2D. The DR2D states that the R2D implies the full realization of the human right of peoples to self-determination (the “R2SD”), which is considered a primal, legally binding right under the international bill of human rights that should not be denied under any circumstances.

This thesis examines the origins of the concept of the R2D, which came about in the context of two intertwined fundamental movements following the second world war – decolonization of the Global South and the international human rights project. It shows that legal thinkers from decolonized countries heavily influenced both movements, and not just the decolonization movement as one might intuitively expect. The emergence of the R2SD and the R2D are examples of that influence, reflecting their desire to reverse the detrimental legacy effects of colonization. The thesis critically examines the DR2D to assess whether the R2D is realizable as it was written. It identifies shortcomings related to a lack of international community accountability and ambiguity regarding definition of the process of development, concluding that the R2D should be interpreted as a binding right to the process of self-determined development. This is illustrated in a case study of the situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories (the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip), which is a situation characterized by settler colonization, versus legal occupation, where the R2SD and the R2D are not being realized. The same brand of colonization that the R2SD and the R2D were meant to address.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.