The rights of people to enjoyment of fair and decent economic conditions are enshrined in all instruments of international law, starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These rights are clearly set out especially in the international covenants and documents adopted by countries at the international and regional levels. Hence a consensus has increasingly been reached that poor income distribution and its accompanying effects of destitution and poverty constitute a permanent violation of individual human rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights devoted its article 23 to, inter alia, the right to work, the right to just and favourable conditions of work, the right to equal pay for equal work and the right to just and favourable remuneration. It should also be recalled that the General Conference of the International Labour Organization adopted, at its thirty-fourth session, Convention No. 100 concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value. Like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights contains several provisions concerning the economic development of peoples and individuals. Article 6 on the right to work, article 7 on just and favourable conditions of work, article 8 on the right to form and join trade unions, article 9 on the right to social security and, in particular, article 11 on the right to an adequate standard of living, can be directly related to income distribution. Finally, the Declaration on the Right to Development provides, in its article 8.1, that States should undertake, at national level, all necessary measures for the realization of the right to development and shall ensure, inter alia, equality of opportunity for all in their access to basic resources, education, health services, food, housing, employment and the fair distribution of income.
Analysis of income distribution at the international level cannot be separated from study of the mechanisms of income "redistribution" at the international level, of which international cooperation is the most important inasmuch as it expresses determination by the developed States to collaborate if building a higher level of equity at the international level. The agreements of "globalization" that are now constantly being signed ought to include this dimension of economic relations. The free trade treaties do not as a rule include a special protocol on international cooperation. Nor is there any determination in multilateral agreements to establish special mechanisms of protection, support and back-up to the poorest countries, a sort of "affirmative action" that would enable them to initiate a self-sustaining process of development.