Critical Reflections

Location

University of Dayton

Start Date

10-2-2015 8:45 AM

End Date

10-2-2015 10:15 AM

Abstract

In 2003 we wrote in World Development that a growing nexus between human rights and development practice could transform both fields and advance struggles against extreme poverty, inequalities and patterns of rights violations. The present paper examines the work of international development and human rights agencies to update our understanding of human rights-inspired development work at the nexus. Examining work in the two sectors now, we see more significant changes among human rights agencies than among agencies in development. Some development actors have embraced human rights language and a handful use human rights principles and strategies to define project and advocacy priorities. But with important exceptions, development organizations have made mostly rhetorical changes, relabeling practices without making systematic programmatic changes. The label “rights-based” has been applied so freely to development work that it has generated skepticism about the value of rights-based approaches. We identify and analyze a set of conceptual, organizational and political constraints limiting the impact of rights-based approaches among development organizations.

Human rights organizations have made changes that may signal a more durable transformation. Many United Nations and international NGO actors have broadened their agendas and started, systematically or selectively, to work on ESCR, and many new or vastly expanded NGOs or networks work exclusively ESCR. They have developed promising methodologies, methods for judging country effort and performance, and deepened their ties to social movements and local advocates. Some initiatives are stretching and changing human rights NGOs’ organizational practice; among them we examine monitoring methods for economic and social rights, advocacy on countries’ extra-territorial obligations, and expanded work on the right to free, prior and informed consent. New agendas, new methods and work on new rights in economic and social policy signal that human rights agencies are a major locus of rights-based development work.

Comments

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Oct 2nd, 8:45 AM Oct 2nd, 10:15 AM

Who Practices Rights-Based Development? A Progress Report on Work at the Nexus of Human Rights and Development (abstract)

University of Dayton

In 2003 we wrote in World Development that a growing nexus between human rights and development practice could transform both fields and advance struggles against extreme poverty, inequalities and patterns of rights violations. The present paper examines the work of international development and human rights agencies to update our understanding of human rights-inspired development work at the nexus. Examining work in the two sectors now, we see more significant changes among human rights agencies than among agencies in development. Some development actors have embraced human rights language and a handful use human rights principles and strategies to define project and advocacy priorities. But with important exceptions, development organizations have made mostly rhetorical changes, relabeling practices without making systematic programmatic changes. The label “rights-based” has been applied so freely to development work that it has generated skepticism about the value of rights-based approaches. We identify and analyze a set of conceptual, organizational and political constraints limiting the impact of rights-based approaches among development organizations.

Human rights organizations have made changes that may signal a more durable transformation. Many United Nations and international NGO actors have broadened their agendas and started, systematically or selectively, to work on ESCR, and many new or vastly expanded NGOs or networks work exclusively ESCR. They have developed promising methodologies, methods for judging country effort and performance, and deepened their ties to social movements and local advocates. Some initiatives are stretching and changing human rights NGOs’ organizational practice; among them we examine monitoring methods for economic and social rights, advocacy on countries’ extra-territorial obligations, and expanded work on the right to free, prior and informed consent. New agendas, new methods and work on new rights in economic and social policy signal that human rights agencies are a major locus of rights-based development work.