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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

Executive summary

This paper presents a strategy for the achievement of human rights and fundamental freedoms of poor people. The central message of the paper is that the International Development Targets can only be achieved through the engagement of poor people in the development processes which affect their lives. The human rights approach to development means empowering people to take their own decisions, rather than being the passive objects of choices made on their behalf. The objective of DFID's Human Rights Strategy is to enable all people to be active citizens with rights, expectations and responsibilities.

This paper sets out what we mean by a rights-based approach to development. A rights perspective means incorporating the empowerment of poor people into our approach to tackling poverty. It means ensuring that poor people's voices are heard when decisions which affect their lives are made. It means recognising that equality matters. Addressing discrimination in legislation, policies and society contributes to an environment in which excluded people have more control over their lives. A rights approach also means making sure that citizens can hold governments to account for their human rights obligations.

Overall, we shall give priority to linking poor people's perspectives with national and international policy processes. We shall do this within a strategy for integrating a rights perspective into development. This strategy is based on three cross-cutting principles:

· 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.

Section one of the paper explains why the human rights framework is central to the achievement of the International Development Targets. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out all people s human rights. These rights include 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. Human rights define a set of objectives. They are also a means for enabling citizens to ensure that those goals are achieved.

Participation, inclusion and fulfilling obligation are identified as the three operational principles which apply to the achievement of all human rights for all. This strategy paper is concerned with the application of these principles in international development policies and practice.

Section two describes the international human rights framework. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the starting point for the development of legally binding international human rights treaties and core labour standards. There are six major conventions which set out in more detail what these rights mean, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These conventions are monitored by the Treaty Monitoring Bodies of the United Nations. Every country in the world has ratified at least one of the six principal UN human rights treaties. Ratification of a convention means that a government has committed itself legally to doing everything within its capacities to meet a variety of human rights standards.

There is a large gap between the aspirations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the reality of the lives of many people in poorer countries. The key challenge is to translate human rights agreements into practical action through the integration of human rights into development. Poor people face many barriers to the realisation of their rights including an. inability to get their voices heard, discrimination and governments which are not accountable.

Democratic institutions, including fair national electoral systems, effectively functioning parliaments and local government organisations, are necessary to enable people to participate in the decisions which affect their lives. People also require access to information about governments' policies and performance. They need to be able to form. organisations, such as unions, women's groups or citizens' monitoring groups, to represent their collective interests.

The section notes that discrimination is a form of social exclusion and a cause of poverty. Some people may be unable to access the resources made available by growth because of discrimination against their gender, skin colour, age, disability or other identity. Discrimination may be the result of legal inequalities in status and entitlements. Social values and norms may result in discriminatory practices in the implementation of policies as well as in households and communities. In extreme cases, discrimination and exclusion may lead to conflict.

Ratification of human rights treaties and the incorporation of human rights norms into domestic legislation are necessary for the protection of human rights. But human rights commitments often remain as abstract principles because governments fail to address their obligations through budgets and policies. At the local level, people need a clear understanding of what particular rights mean in terms of concrete entitlements in order to be able to claim them. National human rights institutions enable people to access international law and institutions and, therefore, hold their governments to account. But these national institutions do not always pay enough attention to the human rights of poor people.

Section three considers recent experience in efforts to improve the human rights situation of poor people and identifies some key lessons learnt by the international community in seeking to promote human rights. Given the very different capacity of states, the agenda for the achievement of human rights is different in each country. The progressive realisation of rights, in countries where government budgets are severely limited, requires clear target setting and local benchmarks. Decentralisation may increase the participation of poor people, but only if it takes place within the context of a political framework which promotes the equal rights of all people. The international community's promotion of human rights requires an understanding of the challenges facing governments in poorer countries.

This section also considers the responsibilities of non-state parties, including the private sector. There are increasing numbers of enterprises which have stated their commitment to observing human rights principles. Their commitment can be measured through independent monitoring of voluntary codes of conduct.

The second part of this section considers the current strengths and limitations of the international community in promoting poor people's human rights. There is a growing convergence of ideas and experience around the integration of human rights and development

Section four identifies the actions required by the international community to ensure that development enables all people to be active citizens with rights, expectations and responsibilities. At the local level it means empowerment of the poor to ensure greater participation in decision-making processes and increased capacity to claim their rights. At the national level it requires reform of legal frameworks, policies and service delivery to protect and promote human rights and to respond to the needs, interests and rights of all. Internationally, there must be a commitment to making a reality of the human rights framework, with a particular focus on the rights of poor and excluded people. This section identifies very broadly the roles and responsibilities of the key actors at international, national and local levels to meet this challenge.

Section five is concerned with priorities for DFID in supporting this agenda. The section sets out a rights-based approach to development based on the principles of participation, inclusion and fulfilling obligation. We identify the specific actions we propose to take within this strategic framework, as members of the international community, and as partners of national governments and national and international civil society.

Section six considers how to measure progress against our priority objectives and looks at the various means available at the international and national levels, including the Treaty Monitoring Bodies, national statistical institutions and participatory human rights assessments.