Call edition 2012

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Human rights and development/A study, made in terms of the theory of law, about the contribution of human rights to development, with a case study of Social Action Litigation in India

Wouter VANDENHOLE researcher laureate
Wouter.Vandenhole@law.kuleuven.ac.be

°1967 Belgium
Licence in law studies, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, 1994

Mensenrechten en ontwikkeling/Een rechtstheoretische studie van de bijdrage van mensenrechten tot ontwikkeling, met een case study van « Social Action Litigation » in India

The thesis examines the question of development from two perspectives: the role of the law and the role of social activists. Regarding the law, an extensive review is being undertaken to analyse and explain the right to development as a human right. The theory is covered by parts I and III. The right to development originated as a collective human right that is attributed to states and their governments on behalf of the population. The thesis further analyses an advanced understanding of the right to development in which social action groups claim this collective human right via the judge. This brings the author to the issue of 'social action groups', which is discussed in parts II and III. Here we can read that conceptual consistency is missing, since the development of the notion is casuistic. This approach is in sharp contrast with the theory of the right to development that originated in literature and conference resolutions.
The conclusions of the thesis greatly help to gain a good understanding of the present-day development debate, and they contribute to a basis-oriented approach and support. The well-being of the citizens is a top priority and surpasses the 'economic growth' approach. Under pressure of social action groups in India - as a remarkable case study - the right to development is in the process of decentralisation and formal litigation leads to merely gradual changes over time. A realistic view for evaluating the relevance for development is the criterion of the effectiveness of the right. On this point the author concludes that a shift is taking place to empowerment of the judiciary, which is closer to local realities. However, the results of the 'developmental case law' are far-reaching, since the executive power is obliged to implement its decisions by means of enforceable judgements. Finally, social action litigation also influences constitutional state, i.e. the rule of law itself. This conclusion is noteworthy for European governments, since the European Union Treaty (Article 11) proclaims the rule of law as a guiding principle of its Common Foreign and Security Policy.

report by Prof. Dr. Marc Cogen, International Public Law, Faculty of Law, Universiteit Gent, Belgium