MJIEL Vol 14 Issue 2 2017 - Article 2
The Concept of ‘Development’ in International Economic Law:
Three Definitions and an Inquiry into Origin
Kevin Crow
ABSTRACT: The paper provides a brief genealogy of ‘development’ as a legal rather than economic term. The language of ‘development’ has become pervasive in international law, especially in its human rights and economic spheres, but the concept of ‘development’ lacks a clarity of definition in international legal instruments. This paper attempts to clarify the legal concept of ‘development’ through a historical analysis of the concept’s philosophical emergence, followed by an analysis of how that concept was incorporated into international World Order institutions and legal instruments. It then turns to an analysis of recent trade instruments to parse out three definitions of development. This paper defines development through an analysis of the terms use in the broadest proposal for an international trade agreement to date – the TPP – and identifies these definitions in other major trade agreements that include both ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries. It then compares the deployment of ‘development’ language in such treaties to the term’s deployment in treaties that only include ‘developed’ countries. The paper concludes by addressing the question of whether the legal concept of ‘development’ is something that emerged from within the field of international economic law (IEL), or whether the concept was imposed upon IEL from external sources, in particular, international human rights law. This paper suggests that, by parsing out three definitions of ‘development’ as employed in IEL texts, we can follow the migration of each definition separately: Development as a Context and Development as Creation/Improvement migrated from human rights law, whereas Development as a Hierarchy emerged from within IEL.

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