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Ensuring the Right to Development
The UN includes one addition to its human rights definition
By Yu Lintao | NO. 32 AUGUST 10, 2017
Agricultural experts help farmers with ginger-planting at the poverty-stricken Zoukang Village of Fujian Province on July 22 (XINHUA)

The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution, "The Contribution of Development to the Enjoyment of All Human Rights," at its 35th session in June. The resolution, proposed by China and co-sponsored by more than 70 UN member countries, won an overwhelming majority of votes and marked the first time that the UN rights body has adopted a resolution on development issues.

The resolution calls upon all countries to realize development of the people, by the people and for the people. It also calls upon all states to enhance international cooperation and spare no effort in promoting sustainable development, in particular while implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as it is conducive to the overall enjoyment of human rights. The resolution welcomes further efforts to promote development initiatives with the aim of promoting partnerships, win-win outcomes and common development.

The adoption of the resolution shows the common aspiration of a majority of the international community, developing and underdeveloped countries in particular, for improving the human rights of their peoples through economic development.

However, such a resolution is not favored by some developed countries, as represented by the United States, which claimed that the resolution doesn't stress "democracy" and called upon all delegates to oppose it.

When people are struggling to secure the basic necessities of life, they need healthy food and clean water far more urgently than votes. This may well explain why although developed countries allege the resolution lacks "democracy," it has been widely welcomed by developing countries. People who grew up well-fed in developed countries might never have imagined the happiness brought to those who live in less developed countries by improvement in living conditions rather than by the right to vote. Therefore, securing economic development based on good governance to improve the living standards of people in developing and underdeveloped countries is essential to safeguard human rights.

China, a developing country which has been under attack by the West for its alleged lack of "human rights," is one such example. According to the China National Human Development Report 2016 released by the United Nations, China's Human Development Index in 2014 ranked 90th among 188 countries, already in the high human development group. Through more than 30 years of reform and opening up, China has lifted more than 790 million people out of poverty, accounting for more than 70 percent of the global reduction in poverty. Based on its poverty reduction blueprint, China will eradicate poverty by 2020. China has established the world's largest social security system, and average life expectancy grew from 35 years in 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded, to 76 years in 2015, ranking high among developing countries.

The above facts well demonstrate that entitlement to development in the economy, politics and society will bring about life-changing benefits for the people of a country.

According to statistics from the World Bank, at present about 800 million people are still living below the international poverty line around the globe, among which more than 300 million are in developed countries. This may attribute to the reason why the China-proposed resolution on development was widely recognized—many countries still face the urgent task of improving basic human rights protection conditions via development.

Actually, even the United States, the world's most powerful country, faces a similar problem. Surveys and media reports have shown that in recent years, the livelihood of middle- and low-income groups in the United States have been worrisome as the wealth gap continually widens. A Gallup survey last September showed that the proportion of adult U.S. citizens in full-time work was lower in 2016 than at any time since 1983.

According to Human Rights Record of the United States in 2016, over the last three decades, nearly 70 percent of income has ended up in the pockets of the wealthiest 10 percent. The U.S. middle-class reached a turning point and began to contract. One out of seven U.S. citizens remains in poverty, which means some 45 million of the nation's population live in straitened circumstances.

The situation in the United States has impacted its politics, as evidenced by the election of Donald Trump, who promised during the U.S. presidential campaign in 2016 to improve the livelihoods of the U.S. grassroots.

There will always be room for improvement in human rights and the first step to solve any problem is to recognize there is one. At any time and in any nation, the rights to survival and development are the most basic human rights. Even in countries with "free election," if people's survival and rights to development cannot be guaranteed, the ballot box might well end up being superseded by rebellion.

Copyedited by Chris Surtees

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