Introduction to a rights-based approach

A human rights-based approach (HRBA) is a conceptual framework that is normatively based on international human rights standards and operationally directed to promoting and protecting human rights. It seeks to analyse obligations, inequalities and vulnerabilities, and to tackle discriminatory practices and unjust distributions of power that impede and undercut human rights.

Under a human rights-based approach, plans, policies and programmes are anchored in a system of rights and corresponding obligations established by international law. This helps to promote sustainability, empowering people themselves (rights holders)—especially the most marginalized—to participate in policy formulation and hold accountable those who have a duty to act (duty bearers). UN agencies have agreed (see below) that a human rights-based approach consists of a number of essential attributes:

  • As policies and programmes are formulated, the main objective should be to fulfil human rights.
  • A human rights-based approach identifies rights holders and their entitlements and corresponding duty bearers and their obligations, and works towards strengthening the capacities of rights holders to make their claims and of duty bearers to meet their obligations.
  • Principles and standards derived from international human rights treaties should guide all policies and programming in all sectors and in all phases of the process.

In practical terms, a human rights-based approach can be used to guide policies and measures of poverty. It can inform assessments and strengthen processes; it can be a mechanism for ensuring access to essential information, effective participation, and the provision of access to justice.

Here are some selected resource to help you understand a rights-based approach to social protection.

Last updated: 13/7/2015


Social Protection and Human Rights