Rights Based Approaches to Development: Implications for NGOs
40 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2011
Date Written: January 15, 2011
The rights-based approach (RBA) emerged as a new development paradigm in the late 1990s. Within ten years, it had swept through the websites, policy papers and official rhetoric of multi-lateral development agencies, bi-lateral donors, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) throughout the global development assistance sector. Today, specialized consultants and advisors are elaborating and mainstreaming the paradigm through reports, workshops, and project evaluations, ensuring that rights-based thinking will continue to proliferate for years to come. Many view this trend with excitement, highlighting the normative and practical value of injecting human rights principles into standard development thinking and practice. These commentators hope rights-based approaches will empower marginalized groups, focus attention on inequality, and boost state and donor accountability. Skeptics, however, fear the emergence of yet another development fad. What, then, is really happening? Is the rights-based approach having observable impacts?
This Article proposes five hypotheses about the likely impact of rights-based approaches on the work, structure, and number of NGOs involved in the development process. If the rights-based paradigm is having real effects, we should be able to observe its traces in the work and activities of development-related NGOs that accept overseas resources and aid.
Keywords: Human Rights, NGOs, Development, Poverty Reduction
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