Human aspirations or
Development, universal human rights and the
importance of social capabilities and
University of Cambridge Centre of Development, Cambridge, UK
Purpose –The purpose of this paper is to engender new thinking regarding the intersection between
universal human rights and development, and associated programmes. This leads to three subsidiary
objectives: demonstrating the mutually reinforcing relationship between human rights and development;
consideringthe practical divide between having and exercisinga right; understanding the impact of non-state
actors; and emphasisingthe ways in which state capacity and social capabilities needto be enhanced to both
transform the considerationof human rights into a meaningful development catalyst and treat development
as a signiﬁcantcontributor to human rights endeavours.
Design/methodology/approach –The paper begins by exploring the historical and contemporary
understanding of the relationship between development and human rights –arguing for the increasing
recognition of theirmutually reinforcing relationship. The secondsection analyses the controversy regarding
the existence of genuine “universal”humanrights; followed by considering whether human rights are mere
aspirations or genuine rights –exposingthe difﬁculty of monitoring, evaluating, and enforcing adherenceto
human rights mandates,particularly given the growth of non-stateactors, such as multinational corporations
(MNCs)/transnationalcorporations (TNCs). The paper closes with a call to strengthen socialcapabilities and
state capacitiesto consolidate the union between development and humanrights.
Findings –Credence is broadly given to the moral argument for including human rights within a
development framework. However, the economic argument remains largely neglected and certainly under-
emphasized. Human rights and development should not be viewed or pursued as separate ends in
themselves –competing objectivesfor separate organisations or programmes –but as mutually reinforcing.
Both drive the same goal: the inclusive,equitable and qualitative development of human well-being.Further,
to transform humanrights into meaningful development catalysts oneneeds to be able to “exercise”the given
rights –whichin turn calls for strengthening social capabilities and state capacities.
Originality/value –Unlike some previous works, this paper does not prescribe a particular remedy.
Rather, acceptingthe intangibility of human rights and the associated large degree of subjectivity,it provokes
the reader to move beyondthe stricturesof conventional theories and frameworks. For example, the difference
between “having”and “exercising”a right –a stark feature of actual practice has frequently been omitted
from theoretical discussion.Likewise, the role of non-state actors, such as MNCs and TNCs,and the way in
which their power can impede or support development goals and human rights is a relatively new pointof
discussiondemanding further exploration.
Keywords Development, Enforcement, Human rights, Social capabilities, State capacities
Paper type Research paper
The international commitment to and call for sustainable development no longer
allows human rights and development to be treated as separate disciplines; it
recognises the urgent need for a holistic approach to development and reafﬁrms the
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.25 No. 4, 2018
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