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close this bookRealizing Human Rights for Poor People - Strategies for achieving the international development targets (DFID, 2000, 34 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe international development targets
View the documentDepartment for International Development
View the documentForeword by the Secretary of State
View the documentExecutive summary
View the document1. Objective and strategic aims
Open this folder and view contents2. The challenge: integrating human rights into development
Open this folder and view contents3. Experience to date
View the document4. Meeting the challenge
Open this folder and view contents5. Priorities for DFID
View the document6. Measuring progress against the objectives
View the documentAnnex : Global and regional indicators of development progress for the international development targets

1. Objective and strategic aims

1.1. The UK's policy on international development is based on a commitment to an internationally agreed set of development goals and time-bound targets (Box 1). The primary function of this international development strategy is to mobilise the international community around the vision of the eventual elimination of extreme poverty. The International Development Targets are indicators which provide a measure of progress towards the goal of poverty elimination. These targets cannot be achieved without poor people's engagement in the decisions and processes which affect their lives.

Box 1. The International Development Targets are designed to provide milestones against which progress towards the goal of poverty elimination can be measured

Economic well-being

· a reduction by one-half in the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015

Human and social development

· universal primary education in all countries by 2015

· demonstrated progress towards gender equality and .the empowerment of women by eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005

· a reduction by two-thirds in the mortality rates for infants and children under age five and a reduction by three-quarters in maternal mortality, all by 2015

· access through the primary health-care system to reproductive health services for all individuals of appropriate ages as soon as possible and no later than the year 2015

Environmental sustainability and regeneration

· the implementation of national strategies for sustainable development in all countries by 2005, so as to ensure that current trends in the loss of environmental resources are effectively reversed at both global and national levels by 2015

While not amenable to quantification, there is a range of qualitative elements of development that are essential to the attainment of the quantitative targets. These include democratic accountability, the protection of human rights and the rule of law.

1.2. Human rights provide a means of empowering all people to make decisions about their own lives rather than being the passive objects of choices made on their behalf. This paper sets out the practical ways in which the human rights framework contributes to the achievement of the objective of empowering all people to be active citizens with rights, expectations and responsibilities.

1.3. The human rights framework is built on the principle that all human rights are for all people. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and subsequent instruments (Box 2), set out economic, social and cultural rights, such as rights to the highest attainable standard of health and education, as well as civil and political rights such as rights to life and liberty. All these rights share the characteristics of indivisibility and universality.1

Box 2. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Internationally agreed human rights provide a common set of principles for tackling the many facets of poverty and inequality. The human rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international legal instruments include:

· the rights to life and liberty

· the rights to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being of the individual and his/her family, including food, water and housing, and the right to continuous improvements of living conditions

· the right to social protection in times of need

· the right to freedom from discrimination

· the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

· the right to work and to just and favourable conditions of work

· the rights to privacy and family life

· the right to education and access to information

· freedoms of religion, opinion, speech and expression

· freedom of association

· the right to participate in political process

· the right to participate in cultural life

· freedom from slavery and servitude

· the rights to be free from arbitrary arrest or imprisonment, and to a fair trial

· freedom from torture and from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

· the right of international protection from persecution

1.4 Human rights are indivisible because the violation of one right will often affect the respect of several other rights. Access to education affects employment opportunities as well as use of information, public voice in decision-making processes, vulnerability to violence and access to justice. The realisation of civil and political rights is interdependent with the achievement of economic, social and cultural rights. All rights are equally important as a means of ensuring that all people can live a life of freedom and dignity.

1.5 Universality means that all people have the right to claim agreed economic, social and cultural, civil and political entitlements. Universality also means that all people have equal rights. In practice, it is often particular groups of people who cannot claim their rights in different areas of their lives. Policies and practices of governments, civil society and the private sector may discriminate on the basis of class, gender, age, ethnicity, disability or other social status. The consequent inequities in education, health, employment, income and political representation perpetuate the powerlessness of the excluded. High levels of inequality generate social division, constrain sustainable development and are a common cause of violent conflict

1.6 Globalisation has increased the value of human rights agreements as a tool for the empowerment of poor people. The search for international consensus on principles for addressing global socio-economic issues has been one of the key factors in the renewed interest in human rights. The UN framework of all human rights for all provides a powerful lever for promoting policy change because the treaties, custom, declarations, guidelines and principles that define these rights are legally, politically and morally binding on states. Because human rights are enshrined in international legal instruments and consensus documents, they are not promises but entitlements demanding national and international response.

1.7 Human rights instruments set out the internationally agreed responsibilities, or duties, of states, to protect, promote and ensure the realisation of the rights of all citizens. The fulfillment of these duties is monitored by the Treaty Monitoring Bodies that are serviced by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and, in the case of core labour standards, by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). As members of the United Nations, states have also undertaken to take joint and separate action to promote human rights globally. Article 28 of the Universal Declaration states that everyone is entitled to a social and international order so that their rights can be realised.

1.8 The counterpart of states' obligations is the right of all people to make claims on governments. All people have a right to demand that governments fulfill their duties to respect, protect and promote civil, cultural, economic, social and political rights. Because these obligations are internationally agreed and monitored, citizens can use them to hold their governments to account. The human rights framework of agreements and institutions links local with national and international mechanisms of accountability. But article 29 of the Universal Declaration makes clear that human rights are not just a matter of citizen-state relations. Everyone has a duty to the community. All people must exercise their rights responsibly and respect the rights of others.2

1.9 Human rights define a set of objectives and provide tools for enabling citizens to ensure that the values embodied in the Universal Declaration are realised. All DFID's Strategies for achieving the International Development Targets describe the way in which we can make greater progress to achieving human rights for all. The other papers in this series set out the strategies for pro-poor economic growth, efficient government, service provision and sound management of the environment which are necessary to ensure that all countries are able to substantively meet the rights and needs of all citizens.

1.10 A human rights approach to development focuses on empowering all people to claim their rights to the opportunities and services made available through pro-poor development. DFID has identified three underlying principles, integral to the realisation of all human rights and the achievement of the International Development Targets:

Participation: enabling people to realise their rights to participate in, and access information relating to, the decision-making processes which affect their lives.

Inclusion: building socially inclusive societies, based on the values of equality and non-discrimination, through development which promotes all human rights for all people.

Fulfilling obligation: strengthening institutions and policies which ensure that obligations to protect and promote the realisation of all human rights are fulfilled by states and other duty bearers.


1 See j. Hausermann, A Human Rights Approach to Development for a comprehensive guide to the human rights framework and its relevance to development, 1998.

2 International Council on Human Rights Policy. Taking Duties Seriously; Individual Duties in International Human Rights Law-A Commentary 1999.