Promote and Protect Human Rights in the Process of Development

By Zhang Jun 

Development is a shared aspiration of mankind and reflects the desire of all nations for a better life. International human rights instruments such as the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have all listed poverty eradication and development as fundamental human rights.

Over the past 70-plus years since its inception, the United Nations has made vigorous efforts to promote poverty reduction and common development across the globe. These efforts, the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and the formulation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in particular, have helped lift 1.1 billion people around the world out of poverty, 1.9 billion gain access to safe drinking water and 3.5 billion get connected to the internet. This marks a major step forward in the global development endeavor.

Peace and development, however, remain the main challenge of our times. More than 700 million people are still suffering from hunger, over 128 million in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, and over 65 million displaced from their homes. Global development is still unbalanced, uncoordinated and inadequate, resulting in a host of problems such as the backlash against globalization and the surge of protectionism and terrorism. It remains a long and arduous task to eradicate poverty, achieve development and ensure human rights for all.

As the largest developing country with nearly 1.4 billion people, China knows full well what development means. Only those who went through poverty could better appreciate the value of a well-off and decent life, and only when the right to development is ensured could there be a strong guarantee for other human rights. The Communist Party of China and the Chinese government are keenly aware of this and have all along put development on top of the national agenda.

Over the past four decades since the launch of reform and opening-up, China has lifted over 700 million people out of poverty, accounting for over 70 percent of poverty reduction worldwide. This makes China the largest contributor to the global effort of poverty eradication. China has created jobs for 770 million people, and has established the world's largest education, social insurance and primary-level democratic election systems. By 2020, China will have completed the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and accomplished the task of lifting out of poverty its rural population living below the current poverty line. On China's vast land of 9.6 million square kilometers, nearly 1.4 billion people are living a peaceful, free and happy life, free from war, displacement or terror - this is undoubtedly the largest human rights project and best human rights practice in the world, and it represents a tremendous contribution by China to the global human rights endeavor. China has explored and blazed a distinctly Chinese path of human rights development tailored to its national circumstances. Its experience could provide some useful food for thought for the international human rights cause.

It is important to keep to the path of human rights development suited to national circumstances. We live in a world where diverse civilizations and development models coexist. There is no one-size-fits-all development paradigm. Countries must find their own paths in light of their national conditions and people's needs. Only in the right shoes can one take firm steps, and only on the right course can a country go far and achieve its goals. To pursue a distinctive path of human rights promotion and protection and achieve practical results, a country needs to proceed from its reality, give due regard to both the universality and particularity of human rights, and advance democracy and people's well-being in tandem.

It is important to promote and protect human rights in the process of development. Development is a dynamic and historical process, and the same is true with human rights promotion and protection. Experience shows that only when countries incorporate human rights into the development process and follow the right development philosophy and path can they create the most favorable conditions and provide fundamental safeguards for their people's enjoyment of human rights. Developing countries, in particular, should give top priority to the right to survival and development, and, on this basis, advance other human rights in a balanced manner. In recent years, the UN Human Rights Council has adopted resolutions and statements on promoting human rights through development, demonstrating time and again the resolve and stance of the international community to improve global human rights governance through development.

It is important to adopt a people-centered approach to development. Human rights are ultimately rights of the people. A country's choice of political and legal systems, its development path, and its human rights record are determined by its people and measured by their sense of satisfaction, happiness and security. The people are in the best position to comment. China's experience shows that people's well-being and interests should always be the starting point and ultimate goal of human rights promotion and protection. We need to ensure that the people run the country. We need to improve democratic institutions, diversify the forms of democracy, and better people's lives to facilitate their all-round development, make new progress in the human rights cause, and achieve common development for all our people.

It is important to observe the principle of consultation, cooperation and benefit for all. In today's world of interdependence, no country should or could monopolize the right to development. Only shared prosperity and progress can make the world a better place. As we move forward, the principle of consultation, cooperation and benefit for all has won wider endorsement and become an important principle for global governance and international cooperation. It is based on this principle that President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative with the aim to create greater opportunities for all through China's development, foster interconnected development through connectivity, pursue common development and build a community with a shared future for mankind.

It is important to pursue common progress through cooperation and dialogue. Despite their different sizes, no country is superior to others; despite their distinctive features, no civilization is better than others. In promoting and protecting human rights, it is necessary to treat all countries as equals and respect their choice of development paths and human rights protection models. One should not interfere in other countries' internal affairs or impose its own will on others. Efforts should be made to increase mutual understanding and resolve differences through dialogue, exchanges and mutual learning. Countries need to pursue win-win cooperation, share development opportunities and work for progress together. As the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of China by the UN Human Rights Council is approaching in November, China looks forward to constructive dialogues with all parties on the basis of equality and mutual respect. We will heed the useful recommendations and continue to improve human rights protection in China.

Development is a noble mission and responsibility of every government. There will always be room for improvement in human rights protection. In this sense, we still have a long way to go in advancing global development and protecting human rights. With the historic responsibility upon us, we must spare no efforts in building a peaceful and stable environment for development, strictly adhere to the purposes of the UN Charter, uphold the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of countries, respect their choice of social systems and development paths, and step up dialogue and cooperation. We must work hard toward balanced and coordinated development, actively implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopt a people-centered approach, focus on poverty alleviation, ensure and improve people's livelihood with concrete measures, uphold social equity and justice, and make sure that no one is left behind.We must pursue high-quality development, implement an innovation-driven strategy, transform the growth model, foster stronger development drivers, and achieve sustainable development to lend a sustained and robust impetus to human rights promotion and protection. We must be committed to open and mutually beneficial development, keep to the prevailing trend of international cooperation, uphold multilateralism, oppose trade protectionism, defend and strengthen the multilateral trading regime, and make economic globalization more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all, so that people from all countries can enjoy equity and justice on an equal footing. We have every reason to believe that through development, people of all countries, including China, will live a better life, and enjoy greater human rights. China's development will definitely create more opportunities for and make greater contributions to the development of the world as a whole.

Zhang Jun is Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of China.