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The application of a human rights-based approach to development programming:
What is the added value?

UNDP, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

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UNDP's Poverty Report 2000 “Overcoming Human Poverty” highlights effective governance as the ‘missing-link’ between national anti-poverty efforts and poverty reduction, and stresses the need to support communities to organise themselves to advance their interests.

    " A major source of poverty is people's powerlessness - not just their distance from government"
The Poverty Report goes on to state that “holding governments accountable to people is a bottom-line requirement for good governance, and that if officials are to be held accountable, people need to be organised, and well-informed”. Thus, without mentioning human rights, the report identifies two key human rights concerns as major obstacles to poverty reduction: the lack of accountability on the part of authorities and the inability of people to claim their rights.

At the global UN conferences of the nineties, the realisation of human rights was stressed time and again as an essential part of the development process. As such, the purpose of the United Nations, as described in article 1, paragraph 3 of the UN Charter, "to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion", finally received the attention and recognition that the Charter gave it in 1945.

Following the World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in 1993, and in response to the Secretary General's call for the integration of human rights into all areas of the United Nations System as part of the UN reform, UNDP adopted a specific policy on human rights: Integrating Human Rights with Sustainable Human Development (1998). In this policy document UNDP expressed its commitment to strengthen its support for all human rights - civil, cultural, economic, political, and social, in a holistic way, and to mainstream human rights into its work in support of sustainable human development. Three focus areas were identified for this endeavour:

  1. To provide support for institutions of governance in its partner countries;
  2. To develop a human rights approach to sustainable human development;
  3. To contribute to human rights policy dialogue, UN Conference follow-up and national implementation of human rights treaties.
Thereafter, in support of the implementation of this policy UNDP, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, designed a programme for Human Rights Strengthening (HURIST). Its primary purposes are to test guidelines and methodologies to identify best practices and learning opportunities in the development of national capacity for the promotion and protection of human rights as well as in the application of a human rights approach to development programming.

But what does integrating human rights with Sustainable Human Development mean, and, in particular, what added-value does such an approach bring? Does the approach tackle issues and obstacles as identified by the Poverty Report 2000? This note attempts to respond to these questions.

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