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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights--------- Project for the First People's Century
EMBARGOED FOR 10.00 a.m. GMT, 29 June 2000

Human rights and human development
Human Development Report 2000 looks at human rights as an intrinsic part of development and at development as a means to realizing human rights. It shows how human rights bring principles of accountability and social justice to the process of human development.

Cover (664K)

Summary [128 KB]
Introductory Text (192K)
Forward, Acknowledgements, Table of Contents, Overview, and more

Support for human rights has always been integral to the mission of the United Nations, embodied in both the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But throughout the cold war serious discussion of the concept as it relates to development was too often distorted by political rhetoric. Civil and political rights on the one hand and economic and social rights on the other were regarded not as two sides of the same coin but as competing visions for the world’s future. We have now moved beyond that confrontational discussion to a wider recognition that both sets of rights are inextricably linked. As Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, often reminds us, the goal is to achieve all human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social—for all people. Access to basic education, health care, shelter and employment is as critical to human freedom as political and civil rights are. That is why the time is right for a report aimed at drawing out the complex relationship between human development and human rights.

Chapter 1 (107K)
Human rights and human development

The basic idea of human development—that enriching the lives and freedoms of ordinary people is fundamental—has much in common with the concerns expressed by declarations of human rights. The promotion of human development and the fulfilment of human rights share, in many ways, a common motivation, and reflect a fundamental commitment to promoting the freedom, well-being and dignity of individuals in all societies. These underlying concerns have been championed in different ways for a long time (the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen came in 1789), but the recent literatures on Human Development and on Human Rights have given new shape to old aspirations and objectives. Extensive use of these two distinct modes of normative thinking, respectively invoking human development and human rights, encourages the question of whether the two concepts can be viewed together in a more integrated way, gaining something through being combined in a more comprehensive vision.
To answer this question, it is important not only to have a clear understanding of what the two concepts— human development and human rights—mean, but also to examine their commonalities and their differences. Indeed, it is necessary to undertake two basic diagnostic inquiries:

• How compatible are the normative concerns in the analyses of human development and human rights? Are they harmonious enough—to be able to complement rather than undermine each other?

• Are the two approaches sufficiently distinct so that each can add something substantial to the other? Are they diverse enough—to enrich each other?

Chapter 2 (211K)
Struggles for human freedoms

The history of human rights is the history of human struggles. Yes, people are born with an entitlement to certain basic rights. But neither the realization nor the enjoyment of these rights is automatic.
History tells us how people have had to fight for the rights due them. The cornerstone in this struggle has always been political activism and people’s movements—national liberation movements, peasants movements, women’s movements, movements for the rights of indigenous people. Often, the burning desire of people to be free and to enjoy their rights started the struggle. Then, building on the people’s achievements, the formalization, legalization and institutionalization of those rights came much later.
Struggles for human freedoms have transformed the global landscape. At the beginning of the 20th century a scant 10% of the world’s people lived in independent nations. By its end the great majority lived in freedom, making their own choices. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 was a breakthrough, ushering in a new era—with the world community taking on realization of human rights as a matter of common concern and a collective goal of humanity.
The global integration of nations and people has been a second breakthrough—as a global movement has entrenched universal human rights in the norms of the world’s diverse cultures...

Chapter 3 (166K)
Inclusive democracy secures rights

The democratic liberalization sweeping the world is making transitions more civil. One of the more remarkable transitions: in Senegal President Abdou Diouf’s loss in an open election in February 2000 ended four decades of one-party rule. Senegal became part of the refreshing trend in Africa of leaders leaving office through the ballot, a rare occurrence until recently. Yet despite undoubted benefits, the transition to democracy in many countries remains imperilled, insecure, fragile. The spread of democracy is important, but we must not overlook the challenges and dangers.
Democracy is the only form of political regime compatible with respecting all five categories of rights—economic, social, political, civil and cultural. But it is not enough to establish electoral democracy. Several policy interventions are required to realize a range of rights under democratic government.

Chapter 4 (175K)
Rights empowering people in the fight against poverty

The torture of a single individual raises unmitigated public outrage. Yet the deaths of more than 30,000 children a day from mainly preventable causes go almost unnoticed. Why? Because these children are invisible in poverty. As chapter 2 shows, eradicating poverty is more than a major development challenge—it is a human rights challenge.
Of the many human rights failures today, those in economic, social and cultural areas are particularly widespread across the world’s nations and people. These include the rights to a decent standard of living, to food, to health care, to education, to decent work, to housing, to a share in scientific progress and to protection against calamities.
Although poor people are also denied a wide range of human rights in civil and political areas, this chapter focuses on the economic, social and cultural rights, of central concern in eradicating poverty (box 4.1). The chapter has two main messages.
• First, the diverse human rights—civil, political, economic, social and cultural—are causally linked and thus can be mutually reinforcing. They can create synergies that contribute to poor people’s securing their rights, enhancing their human capabilities and escaping poverty. Because of these complementarities, the struggle to achieve economic and social rights should not be separated from the struggle to achieve civil and political rights. And the two need to be pursued simultaneously.
• Second, a decent standard of living, adequate nutrition, health care and other social and economic achievements are not just development goals. They are human rights inherent in human freedom and dignity. But these rights do not mean an entitlement to a handout...

Chapter 5 (234K)
Using indicators for human rights accountability

Statistical indicators are a powerful tool in the struggle for human rights. They make it possible for people and organizations—from grassroots activists and civil society to governments and the United Nations—to identify important actors and hold them accountable for their actions. That is why developing and using indicators for human rights has become a cuttingedge area of advocacy. Working together, governments, activists, lawyers, statisticians and development specialists are breaking ground in using statistics to push for change— in perceptions, policies and practices. Indicators can be used as a tool for:
• Making better policies and monitoring progress.
• Identifying unintended impacts of laws, policies and practices.
• Identifying which actors are having an impact on the realization of rights.
• Revealing whether the obligations of these actors are being met.
• Giving early warning of potential violations, prompting preventive action.
• Enhancing social consensus on difficult trade-offs to be made in the face of resource constraints.
• Exposing issues that had been neglected or silenced.

Chapter 6 (241K)
Promoting rights in human development

All rights for all people in every country should be the goal of this century. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights set out this global vision more than 50 years ago. The world today has the awareness, the resources and the capacity to achieve this goal on a worldwide scale. It is time to move from the rhetoric of universal commitment to the reality of universal achievement. Much action is already under way—in countries and internationally.
Progress will be neither easy nor straightforward. Human rights may be universal, but they are not universally accepted. Huge advances have been made almost everywhere in the decades since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but new threats lurk on the horizon. The nature of the struggle depends on the right and the opponent. The fight against exploitation by individuals, groups or firms defines one domain of struggle. The opponents can also be governments, whose agencies have violated rights of citizens across the world. Those who oppose human rights do so for a mix of reasons. And they often camouflage their denial of rights with distorted claims of cultural relativism and political necessity—or make lack of resources an excuse for inaction. Indeed, human rights are seen as a threat by many groups, including many in positions of power or superiority. Rights challenge entrenched interests, just as equitable development threatens those in privileged positions. But in the longer run all can gain. Human rights and human development help build lawabiding, prosperous and stable countries.

Human Development Indicators (305K)

Human Development Indicators - Part II (458K)

Technical and Statistical Notes (151K)

Background papers
Chapters and Language versions

To order the report: Orders for all past editions of the Human Development Report must be addressed to the Human Development Report Office. An online form is available for this purpose. Older editions of the Report are sometimes available yet in very few numbers and for only certain language editions. If we no longer have copies of the report you seek it is at times possible to find them for sale online.
Access the form here.

Occasional Papers: Topical background research for the HDR 2000
  • Vizard, Polly,2000:  Antecedents of the Idea of Human Rights : A Survey of Perspectives

    Contents 1. Antecedents of the idea of human rights in Western political thought
    1.1 Theories of natural law: Origins in Ancient Greece
    1.2 The development of theories of natural law and natural rights: The Roman, Medieval and Early Modern periods
    1.3 The influence of the Enlightenment
    1.4 Declarations and assertions of rights and liberties in the political movements and revolutions of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
    2. Responding to relativism: Some points of departure
    2.1 The nature and scope of the relativist critique
    2.2 Responding to relativism: the idea of "contested cultures"; the need for more adequate "crosscultural foundations"; anthropological perspectives on shared ethical values; Sen's framework; "reoccuring ethical principles" and the idea of the "Golden Rule"; the idea of an "overlapping consensus"; an "hermeneutical approach" to cross-cultural dialogue.
    3. Antecedents of the idea of human rights in different cultures and traditions from around the world
    3.1 Antecedents in Islamic traditions of tolerance, freedom and rights
    3.2 Antecedents in Confucian traditions of universalism and tolerance
    3.3 Antecedents in Buddhist traditions of universalism and compassion
    3.4 Antecedents in Indian traditions of universalism, tolerance and diversity
    3.5 Some Christian and Jewish perspectives: Rights-based strategies and the non-violent struggle against racism in the United States; liberation theology; and the vision of liberation.
    3.6 Antecedents in African traditions and cultures and the need for new theoretical frameworks

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