Dialectics of the Internationally Declared Right to Development and Development Practices

Development has the general connotation of a structural improvement of people’s well being. In practice, however, it often affects the entitlement positions of those who have to sustain their daily livelihoods in a negative way. This happens particularly when decisions on development are taken by governments without any prior consultation, let alone participation of stakeholders. Thus, powerful vested interests impose policies on people at the grassroots. The point is that such policies are decided not with the aim of eradicating social injustices or improving the living conditions of people, but solely on the basis of macro priorities, viz. economic growth and productivity or macro-economic and political stability. As a result they are likely to exert detrimental effects on people. Hence, instead of being the beneficiaries, people at the grassroots actually become victims. It is in such contexts that we have considered development as being a hazard.

Here, the right to development might offer a possible protection. This right grants holders the entitlements to a ‘fair distribution of benefits’ and to ‘participation’. The entitlement to a fair distribution of benefits would seem to imply that a violation occurs when development does not deliver benefits for those affected or, perversely, harms the right-holders. The entitlement to participation entails that the process of development requires the involvement of the stakeholders. The Declaration on the Right to Development proposes two distinct options: first, by stipulating a participatory process that is stimulated by the state, and second, by asserting actions from below, emphasizing a participatory activity that is, first and foremost, at the initiative of the right-holders themselves, albeit that the state ought to create an enabling environment for development from below.

From the study of the dialectics between the development practices and the right to development, the research has come into a conclusion that there is a lack of substantial people’s protection in development. To answer to this concern, the assumptions that the official and international consensus on the discourse of protection in development would lead to the proliferation and implementation at the grass-root level must be abandoned. Sound analyses should not start by excluding the need for a conception and harmonization of relevant values and practices at the national and local levels with the international discourse. In this study, we have argued that the lack of enforceability occurs particularly when one forces a positivist form of implementation upon the right to development, while hazards occur especially when development is executed from a determinist perspective.

In the case of Indonesia, this appears in a phenomenon that the official endorsement of the right to development may imply not just a first step towards implementation but rather towards obstruction. In this concern, the finding of the study emphasizes that in order for the right to development to actually operate as a legal resource as well as a political instrument against hazards, all development actors should seek to be effective before aspiring to be successful and comprehensive in their efforts. In the ensuing processes of operationalization, painful political and economic compromises will have to be made against macro-development priorities and vested interests in order to ensure protection of the intended beneficiaries, in this study regarded as right-holders. Only in that respect that we can move from moral ends of development to a genuine right to development.