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close this bookRealizing Human Rights for Poor People - Strategies for achieving the international development targets (DFID, 2000, 34 p.)
close this folder5. Priorities for DFID
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Key actions


5.6 Participation in decision-making is central to enabling people to claim all their human rights. Effective participation occurs when poor people are actively engaged in decision-making and when their voices and interests are heard. It requires access to information about government policies and performance so that people can make informed decisions and hold policy makers accountable. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines people s civil and political rights to participate in decision-making, to freedom of expression, access to information and to freedom of association. DFID will:

· encourage international development organisations to focus more effectively on engaging with governments to strengthen democratic systems and institutions. This includes greater international support for the strengthening of free and fair national electoral systems and effectively functioning parliamentary and political institutions. It also requires attention to means of developing local government institutions which empower poor people.

5.7 These formal institutions and processes are rarely sufficient to ensure that the voices of poor people are heard. Participatory Poverty Assessments and other participatory research methods have proved invaluable both as a means of ascertaining the views of poor people and of strengthening the capacity of civil society to engage in policy discussions. DFID will:

· continue to develop and disseminate good practice in participatory research methods while seeking to ensure that such methods are neither dismissed nor misused by national and international organisations as a means of speaking on behalf of poor people;

· build on experience in this area to develop participatory research methods which focus on people's own understanding of their human rights;

· support institutions which enable poor people to monitor governments' delivery of agreed entitlements, such as citizens' service user and monitoring groups.

5.8 In the past, non-governmental organisations have been expected to act as vehicles for delivering aid, and as a means of increasing the participation of poor people in micro level projects. The involvement of civil society in this way has sometimes been seen as a substitute for accountable and effective state institutions. DFID will support:

· initiatives which enhance the skills and capacity of poor people to organise into associations and alliances in order to participate in decision-making processes. Such initiatives may focus on supporting the formation and management of organisations, increasing the public speaking and influencing skills of disadvantaged people or on strengthening local level understanding of local and national policy and budget formulation processes.

5.9 International action to achieve poverty reduction must be designed to support and not undermine national and local decision-making institutions. DPID will:

· work to ensure that the introduction of economic reform programmes and poverty strategies led by the Bretton Woods Institutions respect national democratic institutions and are evolved and debated through existing formal and informal methods of participation;

· encourage greater civil society involvement in the national process of preparation and participation in international meetings, such as the UN conferences at Vienna, Copenhagen and Beijing, in order to ensure that the interpretation of human rights standards and action to implement human rights is based on the interests and perspectives of excluded people.

5.10 Actions which promote rights to information are central to increasing the accountability of both state and non-state organisations. The value of a free, independent and responsible press and media in the gathering and dissemination of information about the activities of state and non-state organisations is often overlooked. A free media helps to promote the political space for the development of an. independent civil society, and helps to ensure government transparency and accountability. DFID will support:

· increased access to new information and communication technologies while recognising and continuing to support those existing forms of communications, such as the radio, which remain the best means of reaching poor and excluded people;

· development of national regulatory frameworks which promote greater freedom of information relating to government decisions and actions at national and local levels;

· initiatives to enable journalists to report on government action in a fair and responsible manner.


5.11 Building socially inclusive societies requires a focus on relations of power that lead to discrimination and inequality. It means a shift from targeting marginalised people through sectoral development projects to integrated approaches which address legislation as well as policy across sectors. This, in turn, requires multi-disciplinary work within and between development organisations. DFID will support:

· international co-ordination, on the basis of human rights principles, for effective engagement with governments to promote the recognition of the rights and needs of the disadvantaged in policy and budget formulation processes;

· initiatives which show how human rights principles and justice systems can be applied in economic reform programmes, and as a basis for ensuring equality of access for excluded groups to resources and services;

· initiatives to addresses discrimination in legislation and its implementation, such as laws which prevent women from owning land;

· action to enable governments to establish, implement and monitor the application of anti-discrimination legislation in accordance with the relevant human rights instruments, and in relation to all spheres of life, including justice systems, property rights, financial services, employment etc;

· diversity monitoring of the utilisation of public services including the justice system, employment in the public sector and in political representation;

· disaggregation of demographic and other household survey data, where feasible and appropriate, including utilisation of services, on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion, disability and geographical location;

· research which contributes to understanding of the processes of discrimination which operate to exclude groups in societies such as minorities and indigenous peoples, people with HIV, people with disabilities and elderly people.

5.12 A human rights perspective on responses to overcome exclusion requires greater attention to issues of diversity and cultural rights. DFID will:

· support language policies that promote cultural rights of minorities while giving all children the opportunity to master the key language of business and politics. It is also important to make provision for mother tongue literacy training in adult education programmes;

· mainstream a concern for diversity in support to the education sector. This can be achieved through education curricula, text books, media and other communications that seek to break down prevailing stereotypes, and to build respect for minorities and others suffering from discrimination.

5.13 Government and civil society initiatives which address issues of violence against women and children are central to promoting social inclusion from a human rights perspective. DFID will:

· seek to contribute to the reduction of inter- and intra-community violence by supporting initiatives to strengthen the realisation of rights to security and freedom from violence through conflict resolution, and analysis to identify the causes of conflict and to prevent it from occurring;

· support civil society human rights education initiatives which aim to influence attitudes towards excluded people as a means of developing a culture of respect for their rights and promoting peaceful means of conflict resolution;

· educate people working in police services and justice systems in issues of domestic violence in order to raise their awareness and responsiveness.

Fulfilling obligation

5.14 States have obligations to respect, protect and ensure the realisation of human rights. It is the role of the international community to support those governments that are taking seriously their obligations to ensure the progressive realisation of all rights and to encourage other governments to follow suit. DFID will continue to work towards the development of an enabling international environment through:

· work to ensure governments committed to the realisation of poor people's rights have sufficient resources to meet their obligations through encouraging increased aid flows focused on the achievement of the International Development Targets;

· work with international organisations, including the international financial institutions, to strengthen their capacity to support governments in meeting their human rights obligations.

5.15 Effectively functioning human rights institutions at international and national levels are central to the protection of human rights. DFID will:

· support at the international level the strengthening of the monitoring and reporting functions of the OHCHR. Co-ordinated action is required to encourage the OHCHR to develop clear guidelines to assess national level action on human rights. The capacity of the OHCHR and the Treaty Monitoring Bodies to monitor the progressive realisation of rights can be strengthened through support for the development of systematic approaches to data collection and dissemination. The OHCHR needs strengthening to enable it to effectively carry out its mandate to mainstream human rights throughout the work of the UN.

· promote at the national level the comprehensive ratification of treaties and their incorporation into domestic legislation as fundamental conditions for ensuring the protection of human rights. This may include, when appropriate, technical support for governments to enable them to undertake the complex task of assessing legislation against international standards and training the judiciary to promote awareness of new legislation and procedures. Support to further reform of judicial institutions, including the police and community courts may be provided to promote accessible justice for the disadvantaged and legal redress which is based on respect for rights. Equally important is the promotion of strong civil society organisations engaged in legal advocacy which can represent the poor in public interest and class action litigation cases.

5.16 Independent human rights institutions, such as Human Rights Ombudspersons or Commissions, may help to both protect and promote human rights as they are in a position to monitor and evaluate, in an impartial manner, the human rights impact of government policies. They also have a role in promoting knowledge about human rights. DPID will, when appropriate:

· help these institutions secure sustainable access to sufficient human and material resources and to maintain their independent and public role. Development expertise can help to ensure that human rights institutions have the capacity and tools to address the rights and perspectives of poor people.

5.17 The promotion of human rights requires states to draw up, and implement, plans of action or policies which could reasonably be expected to lead to the enjoyment of given rights. Agreement on specific national level targets and plans of action to promote human rights, as agreed at the Vienna Conference, would provide one means of measuring governments' actions in relation to their obligations to promote human rights instruments. Realistic action plans need to be based on the perspectives of poor people as well as clear analysis of the capacity and resources of governments. Action plans need to feed into other policy and budget processes in order to ensure that human and material resources are mobilised. Where human rights action plans are drawn up and considered alongside poverty action plans, they may stand more chance of being implemented. DFID will:

· support governments and civil society to translate national level agreements into realistic and concrete entitlements through the development of local benchmarks. Charters setting out clear information on service standards and entitlements help to inform people about their rights. These benchmarks should be set and monitored though participatory mechanisms in order to promote local relevance and increase accountability to citizens.

5.18 The obligations of states to protect human rights during times of conflict are defined by international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law The institutions and mechanisms which monitor these bodies of law need to be strengthened in order to protect the rights of citizens affected by conflict. DFID will promote:

· adherence with international humanitarian law in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which acts to direct international relief activities conducted by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement in situations of conflict;

· compliance with the international framework of laws for the protection of refugees and other conflict-affected groups in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees;

· compliance with state parties' human rights obligations in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human. Rights;

· an effective start to the International Criminal Court to ensure that those guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity are brought to timely justice.

5.19 One of the key challenges of development is creating systems of accountability for ensuring that non state actors respect the human rights of all people. DFID will encourage:

· multilateral institutions, including the World Bank, to recognise the importance of rights to freedom of association as contributing to enabling poor people to attain secure and sustainable livelihoods and decent working conditions;

· governments to meet their responsibilities for ensuring that private enterprises operating within their boundaries respect human rights standards;

· private sector respect for core labour standards through implementation of voluntary codes of conduct.