1.1   Background of the Study

Human rights and development are like two parallel lines coming from different angles but heading towards the same direction. This statement suggests a conceptual meeting point between human rights and development. As such the UNDP’s human development report of year 2000 buttresses this statement in  stating that, “human rights and development share a common vision and a common purpose which is, to secure the freedom, wellbeing and dignity of all people everywhere” UNDP ( 2000:1). With respect to this conceptual union or convergence, has emerged a new perspective in the development discourse influencing even the practice of development.

The development discourse has over the years witnessed a beehive of intellectual activities ranging from the choice of theories and perspectives, to the models and approaches from which to carry out development programmes. Various theories have been propounded and applied, while some have met with failures others have literally been abandoned by policy makers and programme designers alike as they have produced unsatisfactory results, although some have been successful in certain areas. Hence the attainment of meaningful development remains a challenge in most parts of the world.

The concept of development has been ascribed with various descriptions and definitions but according to Sen (1988:11), “the enhancement of living conditions is an integral part of the concept of development”. The popular idea which the concept of development is commonly identified with in various political and economic discourses is given in simple terms.

At the simplest level development implies growth or maturation and advancement. The term came to prominence in the academic literature after the Second World War, when major political and social changes were taking place in the third world (a polite word to denote ‘poor countries’). And development, in its broadest sense refers to the process by which poor countries get still richer or try to do so and also to the process by which rich countries still get richer. Naz (2006:65).

 Contemporary human rights agenda is rooted in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Article 1 of this declaration states out three fundamental pillars of the human rights system, they are: freedom, equality and solidarity. According to Benedek (2012: 28), “Solidarity stands for economic and social rights, like the right to social security, just remuneration, and an adequate standard of living, health and accessible education which are an integral part of the human rights framework”. With this we can envisage a linkage with the concept of development seeing that, fulfilling these human rights amounts to fulfilling the integral part of the concept of development which is the enhancement of living conditions as stated by Amartya Sen.

Human rights are commonly understood as being those rights which are inherent to the human being. They are those rights which every human being has and is entitled to by virtue of being human. The universality of human rights and its natural entitlement to all human beings can be traced to its earliest origins in western philosophical ideas and theories of natural law and natural rights. The manual on human rights education, which is published by Intersentia provides some essential tenets of the human rights system.

The aspiration to protect the dignity of all human beings is at the core of the human rights concept. It puts the human person in the centre of concern. It is based on a common universal value system devoted to the sanctity of life, and provides a framework for building a human rights system protected by internationally accepted norms and standards. Benedek (2012:28).

The subject area of human rights according to Sano (2000:741), “is not just the protection of individuals and groups against those in power, but also duties, the state (or other international donors or actors) has in relation to individuals and groups including the duty to create decent living standards”.

Not until recently, development and human rights have existed in complete isolation with each championing its own cause. But what we have witnessed is the birth of an intellectual framework in which the development edifice has embraced the human rights agenda, arising from the shift in focus or perspective from which development activities are carried out from that centred on material outcomes and economic growth, to that centred on human development and wellbeing. This in turn has resulted in the birth of the human rights based approach to development. The human rights based approach is the major process through which human rights is integrated into development policy. “A Right based approach views poverty as an injustice not fate. It focuses on the relationship between the state and the citizens (and others within the jurisdiction) in order to hold decision makers accountable for the actions they take that causes, continues or worsens poverty” APF and CESR (2015:6). The linking of human rights with development also facilitates opportunities for individuals and groups to participate in development as a human right.

In theory the recognition of economic, social and cultural rights (which is the second arm of the UN declaration of human rights) in 1966, offered a bridge between the human rights and development worlds. The economic and social rights according to Giles and Jeremy (2001:2) “carry an obligation for society as a whole to ensure a minimum wellbeing for all”.

“Development as a concept first entered the human rights agenda through the debate on the right to development, the idea was launched by the Senegalese Jurist M’Baye in 1972”  Uvin (2007: 598). It derives from a worldview that sees the goals and ends of development as necessarily what every human being is entitled to by virtue of being human. This conception sets the human person as the major pillars of the development structure. Another aspect of the idea is that it tries to include development as part of the entitlements to be demanded by citizens from the state or government. In this thinking, the impact of development is weighed on human rights outcomes instead of increased productivity. Subsequently the UN (United Nations) General Assembly further gave a voice to the idea of the right to development with the 1986 declaration.

In 1986, after much wrangling a right to development was adopted as a UN General Assembly resolution (I.e. not a treaty and thus without binding force) Stating as follows; the right to development 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. Uvin (2007:598).

Initially the integration of human rights into development was met with criticism from various quarters especially from those who felt that development should not get entangled in the business of human rights, this they saw as a diversion of focus. However, “At the 1993 world conference on human rights in Vienna the right to development was re-adopted this time unanimously as part of the broader Vienna declaration and programme of action” Uvin (2007: 598).  As a result, the early 1990s onwards witnessed a closure in the intellectual and operational gap between human rights and development. As Uvin (2002:1) states, “There is nowadays a significant and growing literature, mainly of the gray kind, on the relationship between development and human rights. Policy declarations and exhortations of the need for further integration, mainstreaming, collaboration, and analysis are commonplace.”

Shulamith Koenig the founding president of people’s movement for human rights learning states that, “the comprehensive human rights framework if known and claimed is the ultimate guideline to chart the future we all yearn for. It is a critical support system and a powerful tool for action against current social disintegration, poverty and intolerance prevalent around the world. Benedek (2012:26).

Why is this convergence happening now and how successful will it be?  Is this union necessary and does it possess the intellectual resources to put an end to poverty? Can human rights and development work hand in hand, and is talking about development using human rights terms and principles the right step in development discourse? What is the credibility of the basis upon which this conceptual union is carried out? Asking these questions leads us to introduce philosophy or rather the philosophy of development, as an instrument and as a second order discipline to scrutinize and give a sound justification and basis for these conceptual union. To ascertain if this can be a new philosophy for development.

1.2   Statement of the Problem

It is clearly evident that although development programmes have been championed to better the lives of people, more and more people are ushered into poverty because many have been left behind in the blind quest for development. This is evident in the increase in poverty amidst huge wealth and growing industries, slums springing up amidst high rise buildings, governments spending on huge capital investment and little in terms of human investment and with virtually half of the population of most countries living on less than a dollar per day, especially in sub Saharan Africa. This presents a challenge to the development enterprise. Various lexicons and paradigms, theories and approaches have been introduced into the development discourse as scholars try to find the effective way to attain meaningful development. 

1.3   Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research work is to undertake a critical, rational and reflective enquiry into the concepts of human rights and development, even as human rights agenda is being integrated into the development agenda as part of the millennium approach to development. In doing so this the research work presents how human rights principles can help achieve development.


1.4   Significance of the Study

This study lays emphasis on fixing development aright in its right perspective as this would ensure that development is not kept out of place. Also a new perspective on development gives us new tools and instruments to apply or try in our quest for development. With a philosophical justification of the linking of human rights with development, this study would further give credibility to the right based approach to development.

1.5   Objectives of the Study

To enlighten us on the current trend in the development discourse as it throws more light on the recent addition to the development discourse. This study is to further highlight philosophy’s role and contribution to the development discourse. It seeks to show the extent of deprivations witnessed by most citizens by positioning decent standard of living as a right to be demanded. The study aims at bringing a new perspective and mind set in the thinking of development. And also opens up a way through which we can better understand the means of achieving meaningful development. It shows the role, effectiveness, and impact of philosophy of development as a second order discipline in this discourse.

1.6   Scope of the Study

The scope of this research work is broad, incorporating the concept of human rights from its earliest philosophical origins in natural law and natural rights to contemporary human rights system and also extending to the concept of development in development discourse. The research work further examines the integration of human rights into development, both on a conceptual, institutional and operational level. It looks at the paradigm shift in the development discourse, introducing concepts like human development, capability approach and the rights based approach to development. It embraces economic, political and social dimensions of development but most of all emphasizes on the human development dimension. Furthermore it undertakes a philosophical evaluation of the integration of human rights into development.