The Human Rights Based Approach provides a legal ground and principles that guide Sweden’s work for people living in poverty. Human rights also permeate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are underpinned by economic, civil, cultural, political and social rights, as well as the right to development.
A normative working methodology
A Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) is a normative working methodology based on internationally recognised human rights. It aims to promote, protect and fulfill human rights and democracy in practice. It integrates the norms, standards and principles of international human rights law into plans and processes of development programmes. It applies to all sectors, all modalities, and each step of the programme cycle. In Swedish policy the HRBA is called the rights perspective.
Within the framework of an HRBA, target groups are considered rights-holders with legal entitlements. Government institutions are duty-bearers. These duty-bearers are under an obligation to realise human rights for all according to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the human rights conventions. Applying an HRBA to development cooperation should empower rights-holders to claim their rights and duty-bearers to meet their obligations in line with international human rights law.
Marginalised and discriminated groups are targeted
Programmes need to assess the capacities of rights-holders and duty-bearers and to develop appropriate strategies to build these capacities. At the heart of an HRBA is the recognition that unequal power relations and social exclusion deny people their human rights and often keep them in poverty. The approach therefore puts strong emphasis on marginalised and discriminated groups.
The HRBA methodology also reminds us that development cooperation can have an unintended negative impact in terms of human rights such as by disadvantaging certain groups, interfering with participation rights and labour rights or contributing to forced displacement. It is therefore important to abide by the "do no harm principle" and carry out the required analysis and mitigation.
Moreover, the HRBA working methodology recognises that pursuing human rights objectives is not enough. The way these objectives are achieved is equally important. Programme monitoring therefore entails monitoring and evaluating both processes and outcomes.
Elements necessary to apply a Human Rigts Based Approach to development
- Assessment and analysis to identify the human rights claims of rights-holders and the corresponding human rights obligations of duty-bearers.
- Assessment and analysis to identify the immediate, underlying and structural causes of the non-fulfillment of rights.
- Design of programmes that includes an assessment of the capacity of rights-holders to claim their rights and of duty-bearers to fulfill their obligations.
- Development of strategies to strengthen the capacities of rights-holders and duty-bearers.
- Monitoring and evaluation of programmes need to follow both the process and the outcome and integrate aspects of the below working principles (P.L.A.N.E.T.) in their results framework and monitoring system.
P.L.A.N.E.T helps organising
The point of departure when applying the HRBA is thus the human rights found in national, regional and international laws, treaties and systems. Sida uses the abbreviation P.L.A.N.E.T. as a way of organising and remembering what to consider when applying a Human Rights Based Approach to development cooperation:
- Participation in and access to the decision-making process: Is there active and meaningful participation of rights holders – including opportunities for them to influence the formulation of problems, planning, implementation and follow-up of the intervention? Will the intervention strengthen rights holders’ participation in public affairs and the plan of and delivery of services? Is there active and meaningful participation of those involved – including opportunities for them to influence the formulation of problems, planning, implementation and follow-up?
- Links to human rights: How are human rights standards from treaties, laws and related recommendations, as well as information from monitoring mechanisms and reviews - used to define and advance the intended project and programme outcomes (or how could they be)? Make the link to the human rights system and use its products (reports, concluding observations, recommendations, etc) to inform strategies and activities.
- Accountability: Who are the duty bearers? Do they have the knowledge, mandate, resources and willingness to achieve their human rights obligations? Do rights holders know who the duty-bearers are and can they hold them to account? Activities have to promote accessible, transparent and effective mechanisms of accountability.
- Non-discrimination: Who are the rights holders? Have they been taken into account in the design of the contribution? Are people in vulnerable situations considered? Is discrimination actively counteracted? Projects and programmes have to prioritise the most marginalised groups and avoid contributing to established patterns of discrimination.
- Empowerment: What capacity do duty bearers have to fulfill their obligations and rights holders' to claim their human rights? Can their capacity be strengthened – including the capacity of duty bearers to ensure accountability, transparency, participation and non-discrimination?
- Transparency: Is information about the intervention available in an accessible way to all stakeholders? Are rights holders able to attend and observe meetings and processes where issues that affect them are discussed? Can the intervention strengthen or institutionalise transparency in the relation between duty bearers and rightsholders in a sustainable way?
The UN on HRBA
Goal: All programmes of development cooperation, policies and technical assistance should further the realisation of human rights as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.
Process: Human rights standards and principles guide all development cooperation and programming in all sectors and in all phases of the programming process.
Outcome: Development cooperation contributes to the development of the capacities (empowerment) of duty bearers to meet their obligations and/or of rights holders to claim their rights.
Briefs and tools
Welcome to explore our briefs and tools on a Human Rights Based Approach in development cooperation. They are structured as follows:
- Thematic areas
- Gender equality
- Rights of children
Thematic area briefs
Here you can find briefs to get guidance on how to apply a Human Rights Based Approach when assessing, planning, designing and monitoring programs in various thematic areas.
Education and Skills Development
Environment and Climate
Private Sector Collaboration
Sustainable Rural Livelihoods Systems
Water and Sanitation
Rights of LGBTIQ persons
LGBTIQ persons are often unable to live openly, free from discrimination and fear in many countries where Sweden is engaged in development cooperation. The human rights of LGBTIQ persons are a Swedish priority.
Here you can find briefs with basic information about the situation of this group in different countries and regions. (Click on the headlines to unfold the different countries.)
Rights of persons with disabilities
More than 180 countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Many Sida partner countries have adopted constitutions and national legal frameworks that guarantee rights for persons with disabilities. However, progress of implementation is generally slow or non-existing. Here you can find briefs with basic information about the situation of this group in different countries and regions. (Click on the headlines to unfold the different countries.)
Rights of children
Since human rights are children's rights, all Human Rights Based Approach information also applies to development cooperation that directly or indirectly affects people below the age of 18. There are also human rights that have been formulated and developed specifically in relation to children. Those need to be taken into account.
Invite children to partecipate
Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) sets out children's right to be listened to and considered in all decision-making that affects them. If a programme has a direct or indirect effect on boys and girls they should be consulted to a certain degree.
The most appropriate kind of participation depends on the programme and on who the children are. Children of different ages and circumstances need different kinds of information, environments and support to participate in a meaningful way.
Meaningful participation could include children in identifying problems and undertaking planning, design, implementation and monitoring of programmes. It could include consulting children through focus groups or interviews.
Examples of what to consider when applying an HRBA to development cooperation contributions that affects children, with a P.L.A.N.E.T approach:
- Participation: Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the right of children to be listened to and considered in all decision-making that affect them.
- Links to human rights: Children's rights are contained in legal instruments at the national, regional and international levels – such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child.
- Accountability: When a state ratifies the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant regional treaties, it takes on the responsibility to integrate children's rights into its laws and systems. This includes taking the best interest of the child and children's right to survival and development into account in all decisions concerning children.
- Non-discrimination: According to Article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, states are obliged to realize children's rights without discrimination of any kind.
- Empowerment: In the realm of children's rights, empowerment is about strengthening the capacity of children, their care takers, and people working with and for children to claim children's rights. It is also about strengthening the capacity of those responsible to implement children's rights.
- Transparency: Transparency in relation to children's rights entails making information available to children in an accessible way, appropriate to their age and through channels that reach them.
Links to children's rights systems
Children's rights are contained in legal instruments at national, regional and international levels. At the international level, the rights of children are set out in the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its three optional protocols, which are:
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure
The CRC is monitored by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which holds consultations and provides recommendations on what to do to advance children's rights. The Committee meets with states to discuss their progress in realising children's rights and provides Concluding Observations to be addressed, develops General Comments that clarify articles in the CRC and holds Days of General Discussion.
To also consider in relation to children's rights:
- Country-specific laws and systems
- Regional human rights
- Other international legally binding standards - such as the International labour standards relevant for youth who work
- Private sector legally non-binding agreements – such as the Children's rights and business principles
External links to children's rights systems
- OHCHR | Convention on the Rights of the Child
- OHCHR | Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
- What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child? | UNICEF
- OHCHR | Optional Protocol to the Convention on a communications procedure
- OHCHR | Committee on the Rights of the Child
- CRC Concluding Observations
- CRC General Comments
More on children's rights
Accountability. When a state ratifies the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child and related regional treaties, it is required to respect, protect, promote and fulfil children's rights – including when involved in development cooperation.
This includes integrating children's rights into national legislation, policy, plans, institutions, court systems and coordination mechanisms.
According to Article 3 of the CRC, states are obliged to take the best interests of the child into account as a primary consideration in all decisions that directly or indirectly concern children.
Non-discrimination. According to Article 2 of the CRC, states are obliged to realise children's rights without discrimination of any kind.
This includes making sure that all children have access to health care, education, security and justice of adequate quality. It also requires changing discriminatory attitudes. It often entails finding ways for children in the most vulnerable situations to be heard, taken into account and be able to participate.
Empowerment. Empowerment is about strengthening the capacity of children, their care givers, and people working with children to claim children's rights. It is also about strengthening the capacity of those responsible for implementing children's rights. To empower you may need to know if rights holders and duty bearers have access to:
- Relevant knowledge about children's rights
- Networks that work for children's rights
- Information adapted to children's needs
- Children's right to not be discriminated against
- Decision making structures that enable participation of child rights advocates and children
- Mechanisms to complain and get redress
Transparency. Transparency entails making information available to boys and girls, their care givers and people working for their rights in a way that is age-appropriate and context-specific through channels that reach them. Ask yourself if the information is:
- Available to concerned rights holders and duty bearers?
- User-friendly to rights holders and duty bearers (language, images, content, style, etc)?
- Shared with stakeholders of the contribution through accessible channels and physical locations?
- Made available through channels that target the stakeholders the most effectively (radio, TV, mobile phones, websites, publications)?