Read: 1989 Feb 09, Right to Development

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Written statement to the fory-fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Agenda item 8: Question of the realization in all countries of the economic, social and cultural rights contained in the universal declaration of human rights and in the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, and study of the problems which the developing countries face in their efforts to achieve these human rights

Geneva, Switzerland
9 February 1989

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The Baha'i International Community is convinced that "the right to enjoy an adequate standard of living" and "the right to development" are achievable, but that they will require the full utilization and co-ordination of all the human and material resources of the planet. Therefore, the Baha'i International Community supports fully the Declaration on the Right to Development -- adopted in 1986 -- which sets the standard by which all nations can measure their progress toward these goals. Moreover, it commends the initiatives of the Commission and its Working Group of Governmental Experts in identifying practical measures to implement the Declaration.

The right to enjoy an adequate standard of living and the right to development are, indeed, within the reach of nations. Baha'is believe that the scientific and technological advances occurring in this momentous century signal a great surge forward in the social evolution of humanity, and provide the means by which its practical problems may be solved. They, in fact, make possible the administration of the complex life of a united world.

Nevertheless, barriers persist. Doubts, misconceptions, prejudices, suspicions and narrow self-interest beset nations and peoples in their relations with one another. Unfortunately, the arbiters of human affairs have, instead of embracing the concept of the oneness of mankind and promoting the increase of concord among different peoples, tended to deify the State, to subordinate the rest of mankind to one nation, race or class, to attempt to suppress all discussion and interchange of ideas, or callously to abandon starving millions to the operations of a market system that all too clearly is aggravating the plight of the majority of mankind, while enabling small sections to live in an unprecedented condition of affluence.

In order to eliminate the "effects of the existing unjust international economic order on the economies of the developing countries, and the obstacle that this represents for the implementation of human rights and fundamental freedoms," the Baha'is believe that the concept of the oneness of humanity must be universally proclaimed and accepted, and its far-reaching implications acknowledged.

In the Baha'i view, recognition of the oneness of humanity calls for no less than the reconstruction and demilitarization of the world. Humanity must seek a world organically united in all the essential aspects of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual aspiration, its trade and finance, and yet infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of its federated units. To us, the unification of the human race and of the planet is no mere pious hope. On the contrary, it is the overriding challenge of the present stage of history and the basic prerequisite for the solution of most social problems.


At the heart of the Baha'i perspective on popular participation in development is an equally challenging conception of the nature and purpose of human existence. In the Baha'i view, man is neither a fallen creature nor merely the product of socio-economic forces. The rational soul, in the Baha'i view, is a phenomenon with limitless potentialities: intellectual, spiritual, emotional and moral. Service to humanity is among the primary influences unlocking individual capacity.

Within this context, the Baha'i International Community views popular participation as essential to development and to the full realization of all human rights. We believe that education in the principle of service to humanity will arouse and maintain motivation which, coupled with the acquisition of practical skills and technology, will open as yet unimagined possibilities for development within and among nations. In particular, educational programmes at the grass-roots level can help young people develop personal confidence and acquire the necessary skills for contributing to the development process in their own communities.

Moreover, the Baha'i International Community believes that it is especially important to promote participation among groups which have traditionally been oppressed or neglected, such as indigenous peoples and women, so that they can assume their legitimate role in making decisions about development which directly affect them.

The active involvement of women, called for under article 8 of the Declaration on the Right to Development, is crucial to the development process. In most societies, women have been relegated to an inferior role in the social order, although they bear the brunt of the day-to-day work. Women should be not only allowed, but encouraged to play a prominent role in formulating solutions to the problems facing their communities. Development programmes must, therefore, have as their aim the improvement of the status of women.

Fostering a genuine belief in the oneness of humanity, an awareness of global interdependence, and a moral commitment to service, in both developing and developed countries, is indispensable to the process of development. On the one hand, it creates a sense of self-esteem and self-reliance in peoples who have been oppressed. On the other, it exposes and counteracts exploitative and unjust economic practices in those societies which perpetrate them, thus restoring their integrity and allowing them to meet their international obligations more appropriately.


The Baha'i approach to development begins from the premise that, in this age, all peoples, to the extent that they are able to consult on their needs in a spirit of unity, can find both the direction and capacity for development within themselves. Given the foregoing grass-roots approach, values and material needs are not artificially separated from one another; education takes on important moral as well as practical implications. Learning the discipline of making decisions is as important as the material benefits that result from such decisions. These are the features that distinguish Baha'i development initiatives throughout the world: namely, the integration of the moral and the practical, a unity of conception that allows for great flexibility of application and, above all, the ability to arouse and maintain motivation.

Although Baha'i development projects represent only a very small fraction of those currently under way throughout the world, their most important success has been systematic and qualitative rather than quantitative. The Baha'i International Community believes that there is much in the community model that Baha'is have painstakingly constructed over the past several decades that will reward careful study by others in the development field.

The Secretary-General has received the following communication which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1296 (XLIV).

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UN Document #E/CN.4/1989/NGO/43 v2.7 (213613) © 2005 - 2021 Emanuel V. Towfigh & Peter Hoerster | Imprint | Change Interface Language: DE