Donating rights

Integrating Human Rights and Development: Donor Approaches, Lessons and New Challenges
OECD Observer

Jannat Bibi, who lives in a village in south Pakistan, was engaged to an older man at the age of three. In the circumstances, that would normally be the end of her story. Yet when she was 16, Jannat participated in the Girl Child Project, an initiative of UNICEF and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), whose workers encouraged Jannat not to rebel against her family but to convince her elders to support her own choices.

Despite initial strong resistance, Jannat was able to persuade her family to cancel the engagement. The Girl Child Project changed her life. In recent years the notion of human rights and the field of development have been converging. The Millennium Development Goals, for instance, acknowledge that “development rests on the foundations of democratic governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights and peace and security”.

This growing recognition of the importance of human dignity, and that there are crucial links between rights violations, poverty, exclusion, environmental degradation, vulnerability and conflict, has led many OECD countries and multilateral donors to look at human rights more thoroughly as a means for improving the quality of development co-operation. Some have adopted so-called human rights-based approaches to development, while others have preferred to integrate human rights implicitly into various dimensions of their development work, especially into their governance agendas.

Integrating Human Rights and Development: Donor Approaches, Lessons and New Challenges, produced by the OECD Development Assistance Committee, shows how these approaches bring “added value” to the quality and success of development aid. This study, the most comprehensive and up-to-date of its kind, describes various ways that donor agencies have integrated human rights more strategically into their work, from improving literacy in Iran to providing equitable water access in Tanzania.

Examples like the Girl Child Project, the Right to Identity project in Bolivia, organised by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and UNIFEM’s programme on Women’s Rights to Land in central Asia, illustrate both new opportunities and some conceptual and practical challenges to human rights in connection with the evolving development partnerships between donors and partner countries. Apart from ethical, political and basic humanitarian considerations, tackling human rights is increasingly recognised as contributing to other objectives, from better governance to aid effectiveness. Like Jannat, it ultimately changes lives.

ISBN 9264022090

©OECD Observer No 255, May 2006

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