Reinforcing the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals through human and environmental rights? Cunha Soares, Núria Kok, Marcel Freie Universität Berlin, Fachbereich Politik- und Sozialwissenschaften, Forschungsstelle für Umweltpolitik
Reinforcing the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals through human and environmental rights?
Can right based approaches contribute to the integration of social and environmental concerns in the Millennium Development Goals?
Cunha Soares, Núria
Freie Universität Berlin, Fachbereich Politik- und Sozialwissenschaften, Forschungsstelle für Umweltpolitik
MDGs; human rights; environmental rights; development; governance
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) constitute a major development
policy effort with 2015 as its target year to which 189 countries agreed upon. Apart from
social and economic objectives, the MDGs also put forward environmental goals. This is
necessary because development and environment are intrinsically linked. This paper seeks
to integrate environmental and social perspectives on sustainable poverty reduction in the
context of the MDG‐agenda by exploring how a rights‐based approach (RBA) can contribute
to the achievement of the MDGs, including both its social and environmental dimensions.
The core idea of a RBA to development is to support individuals or groups whose rights have
been violated, neglected or ignored, and who have a responsibility to act. Being poor is not
solely a matter of shortages and deficiencies, but it is also a problem of powerlessness; not
having rights and access to and control of natural, social and economic resources.
Concurrently, due to the rise of environmental threats, a distinction needs to be made
between human rights and the right to a healthy environment, which is an essential right
within the human rights framework. While the former have already found its way into hard
law and thus allowing individuals and groups to claim their rights (at least in countries that
ratified human rights covenants); the latter is, internationally, often perceived as vague and
subject to divergent interpretations. This paper will first present the MDG‐agenda and then
the RBA. Next it will link the RBA to the MDGs and suggest, from a rights‐based perspective,
possible directions for dealing with some of the limitations of the MDG agenda and its
implementation. Lastly it will explore possible ways of how the RBA can contribute to the
long‐term MDG/development agenda, with the view to effectively integrating social and
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