n South African Journal on Human Rights - Differing conceptions of development and the content of international development law

Volume 21, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0258-7203



International development law (IDL) is the branch of international law that deals with the rights and duties of states and other actors in the development process. Its original content was premised on a particular generally accepted understanding of develop- ment. Under the pressure of the problems of development that arose during the 1970s and 1980s this general agreement on the key issues disintegrated. As a consequence, the consensus on the content of international development law also began to break down. Today, competing idealised views of development shape the current debate about the content of international development law. What can be termed `the traditional view' maintains that development is about economic growth. It argues that the challenges of economic development can be distinguished from other social, cultural, environmental and political issues in society, including human rights. What I call `the modern view' has a holistic understanding of development. It argues that development should be viewed as an integrated process of change involving economic, social, cultural, political and environmental dimensions. The two perceptions differ in their understanding of the substantive content of IDL and the importance they attach to the principle of sovereignty and in their view of the relationship between national and international law in the law applicable to the development process.

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