Strengthening Human Rights for Inclusive Development

Dec 10, 2013

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - The 20th anniversary
The Road Ahead, 20 Years of Working for Your Rights. From the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights


Twenty years ago, at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Member States of the United Nations reaffirmed that the right to development is a universal and inalienable right. (Lee versaun Tetum iha ne'e)

Indeed, everyone has the right to development and should benefit from development. Many countries are experiencing economic growth, but inequalities continue to rise. Specific groups are at times excluded from the development process for different reasons. These groups can include persons with disabilities, ethnic or religious minorities, migrants, people in rural areas, female heads of households and children. Situations of inequalities can exist for decades, particularly under non-democratic regimes. They often become breeding grounds for large scale protest and calls for change as we saw, for example, in the so called “Arab Spring”.

These situations show the close relation between human rights, development and security, as also noted by the former Secretary General Kofi Annan when he stated “There could be no security without development, no development without security and no sustaining of either without being rooted in the rule of law and respect for human rights”.

During their conference in Vienna, all Member States of the United Nations stressed the need for effective development policies at the national level, equitable economic relations and favorable conditions at all levels to ensure the full and effective enjoyment of human rights.

In the twenty years that have passed since the commitments made in Vienna, the call for development that includes everyone and is based on human rights has grown louder around the world. As noted by Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “. . . it has been written on the banners of the mobilized global citizenry from Tunis to Wall Street, from the Amazon forests to the Pacific islands”.

Once more, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, the so called Rio+20 conference, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2012, Member States of the United Nations expressed their commitment to sustainable development that is based on the full respect, protection and promotion of all human rights. Their commitments draw attention to specific human rights, including the right to an adequate standard of living, food, water and sanitation, health and education – rights that remain an aspiration to many in the world, including in Timor-Leste.  UN Member States agreed to integrate key elements of the human rights-based approach to development, which calls for meaningful participation of the public in development, reducing inequalities, inclusion and non-discrimination, among other things.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Member States earlier this year at the UN Human Rights Council to ensure that the post-2015 agenda is based on human rights, equality, and sustainability. I am glad that human rights have emerged as a dominant theme as part of the discussions on the post-2015 development agenda. I congratulate Timor-Leste on its active participation in those discussions, in particular through the involvement of H.E. Emilia Pires, Minister of Finance, on the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons appointed by the Secretary-General.

These recent developments underscore once more that true development and human rights are closely interlinked.

I would now like to turn to this beautiful country which I am only starting to get to know since my arrival here in July. Firstly, let me congratulate Timor-Leste for its clear vision on how to develop the nation as laid down in the Strategic Development Plan, which “. . . is about setting out a pathway to long-term, sustainable, inclusive development in Timor-Leste”. Timor-Leste is proud, and rightly so, of its leading role in concluding the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, which builds on the vision and principles of the Millennium Declaration for sustainable development and is aimed at, among other things, building peaceful states and societies, in which women, youth and marginalized groups are empowered.


I also congratulate the Government for the recent approval of a resolution to ratify two conventions of the International Labour Organization on non-discrimination in employment and equal payment.


The UN system will continue to closely support Timor-Leste’s State and Government Institutions, and its civil society, on the important course of national development that is now in full force, with a vision of guaranteeing human rights and dignity of all. While doing so, the UN Agencies are committed to use a human rights based approach and will make sure that all development programming furthers the realization of human rights.


Knut Ostby, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Timor-Leste

10 December 2013