What is a human rights-based approach?

In a human rights-based approach, the focus is on the relationship between rights holders and duty bearers.

Rightsholders are individuals and groups who face barriers to claiming entitlements and realising their human rights. Duty bearers are statutory agencies and non-statutory organisations who have corresponding human rights obligations.

The human rights-based approach works towards strengthening the capacity of rights holders to realise their human rights and claim their entitlements while also strengthening the capacity of duty bearers to meet their human rights obligations.

A human rights-based approach aims to ensure that human rights principles guide all phases of work, from strategic planning to project implementation and evaluation.

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Human rights principles:


1. Universal & inalienable: Human rights are universal and inherent to all individuals, regardless of their nationality, race, religion, gender, or any other characteristic. They cannot be taken away or transferred, and we have a duty to protect and promote these rights for all people.


2. Indivisible: Human rights are interconnected and indivisible, meaning that the realisation of one right often depends on the fulfilment of other rights. For example, the right to education is closely linked to the right to health, as a healthy and well-nourished child is more likely to benefit from education.


3. Interdependent & interrelated: Human rights are interdependent and interrelated, which means that the enjoyment of one right can enhance the enjoyment of other rights. For instance, the right to freedom of expression supports the right to participate in public life, while the right to adequate housing contributes to the realisation of the right to a standard of living.


4. Equality & non-discrimination: Human rights principles demand that all individuals are entitled to equal rights and opportunities without any form of discrimination. Discrimination based on factors such as race, gender, religion, or disability is prohibited, and efforts should be made to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect.


5. Participation & inclusion: Human rights require active participation and inclusion of individuals in decision-making processes that affect their lives. People have the right to be involved in the decisions that shape their communities and societies, and marginalised or vulnerable groups should be empowered to participate fully.


6. Accountability & rule of law: Human rights principles emphasise the importance of accountability and the rule of law. Governments and institutions are responsible for upholding human rights and must be held accountable for any violations. The rule of law ensures that everyone is subject to fair and just laws that protect their rights and provide avenues for seeking justice.


7. Dignity: Human rights are grounded in the inherent dignity of every human being. This principle recognises that each person has intrinsic worth and should be treated with respect, regardless of their circumstances or status. Upholding human rights means recognising and safeguarding the dignity of all individuals.


8. Fairness: Human rights principles promote fairness and justice, ensuring that individuals are treated equitably and without discrimination. Fairness entails equal access to opportunities, resources, and benefits within society, while also addressing historical inequalities and ensuring a level playing field for all.


9. Autonomy: Human rights respect and protect the autonomy of individuals. This principle acknowledges that every person has the right to make decisions about their own life, body, and personal choices, as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. Autonomy empowers individuals to express their identity, beliefs, and values freely.