From a human rights perspective, individuals are rights-holders that can make legitimate claims, and States and other actors are duty-bearers that are responsible and can be held accountable for their acts or omissions. Therefore, a focus on rights and obligations helps to identify who is entitled to make claims and who has a duty to take action, empowering those who have legitimate claims to rights.

This regulates the exercise of power and ensures that those who wield power are answerable to those who do not.  In this regard, accountability, the essential principle of human rights, has the potential to empower people living in poverty and facilitate their visibility, ensuring that they are at the centre of public policies on poverty eradication not as passive beneficiaries, but as rights holders that can exercise their entitlements by holding responsible those behind such policies. As a result, the human rights approach has the potential to improve the effectiveness of poverty reduction efforts, and to ensure that progress is equitable and sustainable.

Photo credit: “Participating in the puppetry training, one woman encouraged the other widows: ‘Be strong!'” by UN Women (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).


Expert Commentaries

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors

In the wake of the International Labour Organization’s adoption of Recommendation 202 in June 2012, the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors was created. But that was not the start of the unique network of today more than 80 NGOs and trade unions of which 16 form the Coalition’s Core Team from all parts of […]


Universality of Protection

States parties to major human rights instruments related to economic, social and cultural rights such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) have an immediate minimum core obligation to ensure the satisfaction of, at the very least, minimum essential levels of all economic, social and cultural rights such as the right […]

Legal Instruments

Ley 1.361 por medio del cual se crea la Ley de Protección Integral de la Familia.

Establece que el Estado y la Sociedad deben garantizar a la familia el ejercicio pleno de, entre otros, el derecho a un trabajo digno e ingresos justos, a la salud plena y a la seguridad social, a la igualdad y a recibir protección y asistencia social cuando sus derechos sean vulnerados o amenazados.

Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102)

A reference for the development of social security systems, Convention No. 102 is the flagship of the up-to-date social security Conventions since it is deemed to embody the internationally accepted definition of the very principle of social security.  Convention No. 102 is unique for both its conceptual formulation of social security, and the guidance it provides for […]

Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202)

Recommendation No. 202 is the first international instrument to offer guidance to countries to close social security gaps and progressively achieve universal protection through the establishment and maintenance of comprehensive social security systems. To this aim, the Recommendation calls for (1) the implementation, as a priority, of social protection floors (SPF) as a fundamental element […]


Universal social protection for human dignity, social justice and sustainable development: General Survey concerning the Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202)

The ILO’s General Survey 2019 , compiled by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR). The Survey (published under the title Universal social protection for human dignity, social justice and sustainable development) focuses on the ILO’s Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202), which calls for basic income security and essential healthcare […]

The Global Rise of Social Cash Transfers

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) proclaimed the equality of all human beings in dignity and rights. The right to social security, however, has been taken more seriously only since the 2000s, through calls for ‘Social Security for All’ and ‘Leaving no-one behind’. The book investigates a major response, social cash transfers to the […]

How to Design Inclusive Social Protection Systems

This policy guide, developed by ESCAP together with Development Pathways, explains how to design inclusive and robust social protection systems and focuses on tax-financed income security. It explains why universal schemes are better at reaching the poor than targeted schemes, and what policy options to consider when designing inclusive schemes. The guide is the second […]

The Rise of Homegrown Ideas and Grassroots Voices: new directions in social policy in Rwanda

At the core of Rwanda’s social policy renaissance is the emphasis on the home-grown and grassroots centred generation of intellectual and material resources, utilized with the aim of ensuring a local population familiar with and favourably disposed to government social policy. In the past decade and a half, Rwanda has gradually but consistently charted this […]

Time for Equality: The role of social protection in reducing inequalities in Asia and the Pacific

This report provides evidence that social protection is an effective instrument to reduce inequalities, and by so doing, contributes to the integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. It examines in particular the inequalities faced by children, persons of working-age, older persons and in relation to access to affordable health care […]

Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

These Principles are the first global policy guidelines focused specifically on the human rights of people living in poverty. They are intended for use by governments to ensure that public policies, including poverty eradication efforts, reach the poorest members of society, respect and uphold their rights, and take into account the significant social, cultural, economic and […]

The shame of poverty: global perspectives

The Shame of Poverty, edited by Robert Walker, presents comparable evidence from the seven countries, challenges the conventional thinking that separates discussion of poverty found in the Global North from that prevalent in the Global South. It demonstrates that the emotional experience of poverty, with its attendant social and psychological costs, is surprisingly similar despite […]

Social Security for All: Building social protection floors and comprehensive social security systems. The strategy of the International Labour Organization

This document lays out the social security strategy of the International Labour Organization on the extension of social security. The ILO’s two-dimensional strategy provides clear guidance on the future development of social security in countries at all levels of development. Its horizontal dimension aims at establishing and maintaining social protection floors as a fundamental element […]

The Human Rights Approach to Social Protection

This report sets out to elaborate and promote a human rights framework for social protection, identifying best practices and disseminating lessons learned. It provides an in-depth analysis of the application of central human rights principles of the human rights framework – equality and non-discrimination (including accessibility, acceptability, affordability and the incorporation of the gender perspective), participation, transparency […]

From Undeserving Poor To Rights Holder : A Human Rights Perspective On Social Protection Systems

Summary: Over recent years, social protection strategies have rapidly gained striking political support and widespread acceptance in development discourse and practice. However, although development actors generally acknowledge that human rights should play an essential role in poverty reduction, there has been a lack of deep analysis of the implications of human rights obligations for social […]

Social Protection and Human Rights