Global Poverty and the Right to Development in International Law
Posted: 29 May 2013
Date Written: April 22, 2013
This Article advances an account of the right to development as a legal instrument that holds the international legal order accountable for its role in the production and reproduction of global poverty. It first distinguishes moral conceptions of human rights, as instruments that protect universal features of humanity, from legal conceptions, which tie their existence to their specification in international instruments promulgated in compliance with international legal norms governing the creation of legal rights and obligations. Despite textual ambiguities in the various instruments in which it finds expression, the right to development vests in individuals and communities who have yet to benefit from development. It imposes internal obligations on states in which they live to address conditions that contribute to their plight. The right also imposes external obligations on international legal actors, including developed states and international organizations, to assist developing states in poverty reduction. The right’s external obligations are negative and positive in nature. Its negative dimensions require states and international institutions to fashion rules and policies governing the global economy in ways that do not exacerbate global poverty. Its positive dimensions require states and international institutions to provide assistance to developing states in the form of development aid and debt relief. Both drawing on and departing from debates about global justice in contemporary political theory, it justifies these obligations by linking the purpose of the right to development to international law’s engagement with colonialism and economic globalization.
Keywords: right to development, international human rights law, global justice, global poverty, international economic law, colonialism
JEL Classification: F02
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