Explores some of the reasons that there are differences in approach beyond some of the agreed fundamentals of rights-based programming.
While most people agree on the fundamental principles behind a rights– based approach, its interpretation and implementation can vary.
A number of factors influence the nature of rights-based programming adopted by an organisation. In broad terms, this will depend on whether it is a human rights organisation striving to incorporate aspects of development, or a development organisation endeavouring to embrace human rights. Furthermore, it may view realising human rights as a contribution to achieving the organisation’s goals, or as a goal in its own right.
The constituencies with which the organisation works are also important. These can range from local community groups and devolved non- governmental organisations to International Financial Institutions and United Nations agencies. Similarly, the sectoral area in which the organisation works – children, women, labour, disability, marginalised communities, water, food, trade, or environment – will to some extent define the operationalisation of its rights–based programming. What are the implications of this?
Programming will very much depend on the type of work conducted by an organisation. For example, whether it:
works with rights holders to claim their rights, or duty bearers to meet their obligations and responsibilities … or both.
aims to influence policy, undertakes practice, build awareness and mobilise forces for change, or a balance between these.
operates with the system (for example, helping develop human rights instruments) or with implementation.
Despite these apparent differences, it should be remembered that organisations are probably looking to achieve similar results, and are increasingly working towards those common targets now defined in international human rights instruments.
A central challenge presented by the shift to a rights-based way of addressing human development is the need to create optimal collaboration between actors and stakeholders in the realisation of a right. It will often be the case that a chain of duty bearers holds various responsibilities, and that different actors interact with different stakeholders (see example below).
|A rights-based approach to education |
All children have a right to education of a quality and relevance that contributes to their optimal development (and ultimately to the development of their society).
In order to achieve this parents have a responsibility to ensure that all their children have these opportunities, and are supported, regardless of gender, ability or any other discriminating factor.
Teachers have a responsibility not just to provide an educational opportunity to the children in their classes to the best of their ability, but also to support parents.
Communities may have a responsibility to support school environments (and perhaps access to schools for those with mobility challenges).
Local governments have a responsibility to manage the resources, and government institutions to provide for teacher training and materials.
Central government has a responsibility to make sure that resources are obtained and allocated such that all children have appropriate opportunities and so on.
IFI’s have a responsibility not to place restrictions on the full realisation of the above.
Even children have responsibilities, to make use of the opportunities offered, and not to interfere with the rights of other children through, for example, bullying or prejudice.
There may be several places in this pattern of obligations that need support or strengthening. Parents may not always have the skills or resources to meet their obligations, other stakeholders may face constraints beyond their capability Different support actors may be suited to points of intervention within their mandate or constituencies.
For example, Mary Robinson, the former High Commissioner for Human Rights, says that a “rights-based approach … means describing situations not in terms of human needs, or areas for development, but in terms of the obligation to respond to the rights of individuals. This empowers people to demand justice as a right, and not as charity. And legitimizing those demands provides balance against other, less positive, forces. This also implies the direct involvement of people in decisions relating to their own development.” (Geneva, May 1999)
Compare this to the language used by CARE: “A rights-based approach deliberately and explicitly focuses on people’s achieving the minimum conditions for living with dignity (i.e achieving human rights). It does so by exposing the roots of vulnerability and marginalization and expanding the range of responses.” (CARE Workshop on Human Rights and Rights-based Approaches to Programming” August 2000 in Promoting Rights and Responsibilities, June 2001)
There is scarcely a word in common (beyond “rights”) in the two quotes and yet they add up to more or less the same thing. The proof more likely is not in the definition used but in the impact of practically employing rights– based approaches. It is here that differences between rhetoric and reality become visible.
Starting points Emerging Features of a Rights-Based Development Policy of UN, Development Cooperation and NGO Agencies Nguyen, F
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- 01/01/1900: Basic Rules of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols
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