Home > RWER > RWER issue 56: Ali Kadri

RWER issue 56: Ali Kadri

An outline for the right to economic development in the Arab World
Ali Kadri[1]   [London School of Economics, UK and Lebanon]

            At this juncture in Arab history, there is an opportunity to be grasped. Unless there is a successful transition from the political to the social revolution in the Arab world, the sacrifice made by the Arab working classes will be betrayed. The following is a proposal to expose some of the previous aspects of development and economic performance in the Arab world with the aim to infuse the development debate with the idea of development as a human right. It need not be said, the present struggle is a struggle for rights. The idea of rights empowers people; it gives them a sense of self-affirmation. The language of rights establishes a framework for the allocation of resources. Without the rights rhetoric we will end up with a totally uncaring market system that will not solve our problems.[2]


            Development is about unleashing human potentialities and broadening the choices of people. It is a fair and balanced outcome combining the rights to food, shelter, universal health care, work, the right to politically organise and vote. It is freedom from hunger, from oppression and all that stands in the way of people participating fully and unhampered in shaping their future.[3] On a more concrete level, development is also the infusion of knowledge in production, incremental growth in capital and progressive institutional change that responds to the demand of working people. Development, in the broad sense, combines the freedom paradigm and capital accumulation – but, not in a static combination. It is the mediation by which the agent, or the subject of history, interacts with the totality of the social condition for the purpose of development. Development therefore becomes the articulation of the social forces that shape capital accumulation or the process by which society reproduces itself. It is the outcome of peoples’ struggles, in particular, class struggle, to improve their lives through the political process.

            Choosing the appropriate development strategy is not independent of the overall vision for the future of the economy and society and the context defining the parameters within which the strategy will be articulated. It is crucial to start with a correct appreciation of the social forces shaping the present and the full legacy of the past without losing sight of the fact that development is a long term process. The moment development is situated in the long term, the developing world transcends the idea that developing countries are emerging markets that have to report financial gains on quarterly basis, as if they had become the country-cousin counterpart of Morgan-Stanley. Long term development is about placing the social agenda before the credit ratings of global and Breton-woods short-term financial accounting. It is the deployment of real national resources in a developmental project. This longer horizon perspective and a thorough assessment of the undercurrents of this particular revolutionary historical process form the connecting grounds that allow the pursuit of development objectives. It, more decisively, reorients policy in a way that redresses the baleful costs of neoliberal experiments that toyed with people’s lives in the past, fosters an agenda that cuts across the divide of economic efficiency and social values, and promotes the idea of development as a human right.[4]

            The intrinsic value of the right to development has been widely recognised. In essence, ‘[t]he right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.’[5]  The right includes:

  • full sovereignty over natural resources, including self-determination and                                     popular participation in development;
  • the right to work;
  • equality of opportunity, which is preceded by equality of condition;
  • the creation of favourable conditions for the enjoyment of other civil,                              political, economic, social and cultural rights;
  • peace and security are essential elements for the realisation of the right to                               development.


            The individual and the collective rights – the latter is the mediation of the former right – are identified as the beneficiaries of the right to development, as of all human rights. The right to development can be invoked both by individuals, by communities and by peoples. It imposes obligations both on individual States – to ensure equal and adequate access to essential resources – and on the international community – to promote fair development policies and effective international cooperation.[6] The state, which recognises the right to development and the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, economic policies, should bridge the wealth divide, furbish the right to decent work and the right to a decent standard of living.

            In the Arab world, economic policies are concentrated in the competence of the state. It is the efficiency and practicality of public policies that should be accountable and come under independent public scrutiny. The role of economic policy and, more specifically, fiscal and monetary policy is to find the appropriate regime that mediates disparate developments and puts interest back in the national and regional economies. Under the right to development rubric, economic growth should meet basic needs and not be a trickle down arrangement. Also, the Arab world is a world that is so interlocked with the global economy, such that, it would not be possible to lock in resources for development without international cooperation. The international community, comprising countries and institutions at the international level, has the responsibility to create a global environment conducive for development.

            By virtue of their acceptance and commitment to the legal instruments, the members of the international community have the obligation to support effectively the efforts of Arab States that set for themselves the goal of realizing human rights, including the right to development, through trade, investment, financial assistance and technology transfer.[7] Without this rudimentary cornerstone of an economic strategy designed to reduce poverty and unemployment, it is unlikely that any economic program of action can meet the basics of human rights, compensate working people for their suffering under the combined assault of neoliberalism and Arab autocracy and, generally, to secure the right to development.

The economy of the Arab world in perspective

[1] Ali Kadri is presently a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE). Formerly, he served as Head of the Economic Analysis Section of the United Nations regional office in Beirut. A.Kadri@lse.ac.uk.


[2]  These are the words of the late South African Justice, Albie Sachs.


[3] Sen, A.K. Development as Freedom, (1999) Oxford University Press.

[4] Development, in this context, is regarded as a process of economic growth, with expanding output and employment, institutional transformation and technological progress of a country that steadily improves the well-being of all people.  When that well-being is regarded as the fulfillment of human rights and fundamental freedoms that enhance the capabilities of the people to realize their full potential, the process of development that leads to the improvement of that well-being can be claimed as a human right.  The realization of the right to development is seen as the fulfillment of a set of claims by people, principally on their State but also on the society at large, including the international community, to a process that enables them to realize the rights and freedoms set forth in the International Bill of Human Rights. Economic and Social Council, COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, Working Group on the Right to Development, Geneva, 11-20 February 2004.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Review of progress and obstacles in the promotion, implementation, operationalisation, and enjoyment of the right to development.” E/CN.4/2004/WG.18/2, 17 February 2004.

 You may download the whole paper at: http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue56/Kadri56.pdf

  1. Jorge Buzaglo
    March 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Could the international balance of forces and the balance of forces in the Arab world be changed by an alliance of Arab popular movements with emergent non-oil economies (e.g. China, Brazil, India) interested in long run stable supplies of oil? The central idea of the coalition of emergent powers and reformed Arab countries would the creation of a kind of Arab Sovereign Oil Trust Fund. The Arab trust fund would have the mandate of developing the oil resources on behalf of present and future generations, distributing and investing its revenues in ambitious social and developmental programs, which would take into account the “commons” nature of the oil resources, that is, resources to which all citizens have the same, equal rights.

  2. March 23, 2011 at 7:21 pm


    Just read your paper. Will post it for a course I am teaching at the University of Denver – History of the Modern Middle East. It is interesting and follows in the tradition of the Arab Development Reports (which I also use).

    I will wait until after the class discussion to comment on the content but my initial response is it is a thoughtful analysis…more of a critique of past practices than offering a vision for where and how the region should go economically, but still very useful.

    R. Prince
    Lecturer, University of Denver
    Korbel School of International Studies


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