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Research Guides

UN Documentation: Development

Concept of Development

UN Photo 672450: Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Laureate and President of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, addresses the General Assembly High-level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 21 April 2016

This guide highlights some key events and documents related to the evolution of the concept of development within the UN. 

The concept of development includes many aspects and has changed over time. The first paragraph of the Agenda for Development (A/RES/51/240) states:

"Development is one of the main priorities of the United Nations. Development is a multidimensional undertaking to achieve a higher quality of life for all people. Economic development, social development and environmental protection are interdependent and mutually reinforcing components of sustainable development.

"Sustained economic growth is essential to the economic and social development of all countries, in particular developing countries. Through such growth, which should be broadly based so as to benefit all people, countries will be able to improve the standards of living of their people through the eradication of poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy, the provision of adequate shelter and secure employment for all and the preservation of the integrity of the environment.

"Democracy, respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, transparent and accountable governance and administration in all sectors of society, and effective participation by civil society are also an essential part of the necessary foundations for the realization of social and people-centred sustainable development.

"The empowerment of women and their full participation on a basis of equality in all spheres of society is fundamental for development."

Other guides on the environment, human rights, and the documentation of the other UN organs supplement the information in this guide.

The work of other organizations, especially the UN specialized agencies and programmes and funds, is central to the UN's work related to development.