Implementing the Right to Development in a New Global Order

  • Edward John O'Dwyer

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Laws


This study traces the genesis and evolution of the right to development [RTD] from its postcolonial conception through its more than 30 years struggle for recognition and implementation as a human right in the present day. It examines the substantive legal content of the right and considers different geo-political and geo-economic influences which shaped and continue to shape contemporary debate on RTD. It emphasizes that because Westphalian and westernliberal order value systems have both contributed to the reasons for Southern countries needing to promote RTD in the first place, and to shaping the fundamental disagreements and debates which ensued directly following its declaration by the United Nations General Assembly in 1986 as an inalienable human right of every human person and all peoples, further and inclusive interregional (civilisations) dialogue on RTD is necessary for any meaningful progress to be made towards its formal codification and implementation at the global level. The study argues that Southern and Eastern values and proposals regarding RTD differ in some key respects from those of the dominant Westphalian-forged West but must be considered on an equal footing as a prerequisite to attaining agreement on common approaches on how to proceed beyond the existing impasse. The body of the paper examines the direct connection between implementing RTD, the types of rights-based systems operating in different parts of the world and the economic policies these generate to shape the lives and well-being of people across the globe. The West, de facto if not always in discourse, favours prioritizing civil and political rights, while Russia, China and many Asian States [East] seek to do the very opposite, placing focus on realizing economic, social and cultural rights, often emphasizing RTD as the most important right. Many countries of the South seem caught in a whirlwind of different approaches and ever-mounting foreign-debt from failure of or overburden from unsuited development policies which have denied individuals and peoples access to RTD. In parallel, the post-WWII global governance architecture based on the UN Charter and Bretton Woods Institutions is under pressure to transform in order to keep pace with a globalization where international economic law and management resist the constraints of the Westphalian sovereign-state paradigm which defines the positive international public and private law of today. The study then examines the emerging multi-polarity of world order, including a New International Economic Order [NIEO], which will guide the future of RTD, and identifies the rivalry between the United States and China as a key civilizational relation regarding the future of RTD and global economics. It concludes by recognizing that action on implementing RTD is needed on all human rights fronts, i.e. the codification of a Framework Treaty on RTD, strengthening the implementation and accountability of RTD through existing international law provisions which contribute to RTD, and most essentially through enhanced dialogue and engagement which focuses on all of these issues. There can be no winners per se – the United States, China and all nations will win or lose together.
Date of Award2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University

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