Cover Image
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
close this folder2. The challenge: integrating human rights into development
View the documentHuman rights
View the documentThe present position
close this folder3. Experience to date
View the documentLessons learned by the international community
View the documentInternational community: strengths and limitations
View the document4. Meeting the challenge
close this folder5. Priorities for DFID
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentApproaches
View the documentKey actions
View the document6. Measuring progress against the objectives
View the documentAnnex : Global and regional indicators of development progress for the international development targets

International community: strengths and limitations

3.29 Only a minority of development agencies are committed to integrating human rights into development practice. Along with DFID, Swedish SIDA and the Australian Aid agency have adopted elements of a rights based approach21. Nevertheless, the trend is positive and there is a growing convergence of ideas and experience.

3.30 The funds and programmes and specialised agencies of the UN have the task of helping to deliver the global, normative framework for development set down by the various UN conferences and conventions. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCR) is the central UN organisation with responsibility for promoting the universal enjoyment of all human rights.22 The OHCHR needs technical as well as financial support to ensure that it is able to effectively carry out its role. It is working to enhance its ability to mainstream human rights across the UN system, and to strengthen its capacity to promote human rights in member states. It should provide more guidance on how governments can implement their human rights obligations in relation to their available resources. The OHCHR and the Treaty Monitoring Bodies need also to improve their monitoring of human rights progress, as discussed below in Section Six. There is, more generally, a need to bring a poverty focus to the work of the Treaty Monitoring Bodies and commissions and the international organisations, such as the International Labour Organisation, which are responsible for setting standards.

3.31 The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is the United Nations agency which deals with employment, industrial relations and labour market issues. It aims to improve standards and conditions of work, and to encourage productive employment throughout the world. In 1998, it adopted the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, confirming the importance of the core labour standards as human rights. The ILO has a particularly important role to play in reducing child labour. To do this, it needs to strengthen its poverty and gender focus and to collaborate with UNICEF and other agencies to obtain maximum impact.

3.32 Although the smallest of the UN funds, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), has been successful in promoting gender equality work in the UN23, other funds and programmes and specialised agencies have performed in a rather mixed way, and there is considerable scope for improvement. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), for example, is beginning to shift its perspective. It jointly hosted with OHCHR a major conference in Oslo in 1998 and has made human rights the subject of its 2000 Human Development Report.

3.33 Among United Nations funds and programmes, such as UNICEF and UNDP, commitment at headquarters is not always reflected at the national or local level of the organisations. Nevertheless, the trends are favourable. UNICEF has taken advantage of the tenth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to commit the agency to integrate a human rights approach throughout its programmes. The UN reform programme offers important opportunities, particularly in seeking to establish more integrated country programmes and sharing of analysis and expertise, and the establishment of a common framework for assessment and progress measurement. To focus effectively on the rights of excluded people, these agencies will need to systematically incorporate social analysis into their mainstream work.

3.34 The Commonwealth Secretariat plays an important role, and is particularly well placed to help member governments address controversial and politically sensitive issues. It has made human rights a significant issue and could usefully do more. The Commonwealth as an organisation also provides an important framework for strengthening global consensus around key economic and social policy issues, bridging the divide between rich and poor countries.

3.35 The European Union is committed to promoting the integration of human rights into all development work. The EU has recently developed a set of guidelines on promoting the rights of minorities and indigenous people. The work of the Committee on Human Rights and Democracy, however, is largely focused on the promotion of civil and political rights, and EC implementation in all areas of development is weak.

3.36 The international financial institutions, most notably the World Bank, but also the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Intel-American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund, command the biggest share of financial resources earmarked for development purposes. In the past, all of these have been weak in their approach to human rights concerns. This situation is beginning to change as new knowledge is emerging of the direct links between economic development, inequality and empowerment. The development banks have also shown more willingness during the 1990s to improve the skills mix in their staffing to help gain a better understanding of the nature of discrimination and patterns of social exclusion.

3.37 The World Bank's 2000 World Development Report has been written on the basis of extensive consultation of civil society in poor countries. The content of the report reflects poor people's concerns for a broad range of rights, including rights to participation, information and security.

3.38 There is an ongoing debate between the Bank and its shareholders about the extent to which the Bank should be addressing human rights concerns through its lending programmes. The Articles, which define the Bank's mandate, state that in all its decisions the Bank should only take into account economic considerations. This is currently interpreted to mean that some aspects of human rights fall outside its mandate. Others argue that as a member of the United Nations family, the Bank should not be selective in its concerns and that the Articles do not prevent the Bank from endorsing the indivisibility of human rights. However, where the Bank has shown support for human rights issues such as core labour standards, there has been resistance from some poorer country governments who fear that this might lead to extra conditionality. The Bank's support for the development of nationally owned poverty reduction strategies, as the basis for obtaining debt relief and loans, provides a potential mechanism for governments to identify ways of fulfilling their human rights obligations without having external conditions imposed on them.


12 Human Development Report 2000

13 Gaventa, J. and Vilderrama, C. Participation, Citizenship and Local Government. Background note prepared for workshop Strengthening participation in local governance IDS, June 1999.

14 Mw Makumbe, John, Participatory Development. The Case of Zimbabwe. Harare: University of Zimbabwe Publications 1995.

15 Strengthening participation in local governance - the use of participatory methods. SEARCH Training Center, Bangalore. March 16 - 19, 1999.

16 Politics and Poverty. A Background paper for the WDR 2000/1. Mick Moore and James Putzel, September 1999

17 Huq, S. Revisioning social policy for the 21st Century: IDS Conference, October 1999.

18 The Maastricht Guidelines on Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were agreed at a meeting of legal experts, invited by the International Commission of Jurists, in Maastricht, 22-26 January 1997. The Guidelines have been internationally accepted as providing authoritative advice on determining violations of economic, social and cultural rights. Paragraph 18 states that, "The obligation to protect include the State's responsibility to ensure that private entities or individuals. including transnational corporations over which they exercise jurisdiction, do not deprive individuals of their economic, social and cultural rights. States are responsible for violations of economic, social and cultural rights that result from their failure to exercise due diligence in controlling the behaviour of such non-state actors."

19 Richard Meeran. Liability of Multinational Corporations: A Critical Stage. Paper for the British Institute of International and Comparative Law seminar on corporate responsibility, 1999.

20 DFID. Helping not hurting children. 1999.

21 Human Development Report 2000.

22 See the DFID Institutional Strategy Paper for the OHCHR for further details.

23 See the DFID Institutional Strategy Paper for UNIFEM.