Human Rights


UN Photo_Michos Tzovaras

UN Photo 

A series of UN reform efforts since 1997 have emphasized the interconnectedness between human rights, development and peace and security and accordingly, the need for coherent and integrated strategies for development. The 2012 QCPR for the first time explicitly calls for a strengthening of normative and operational linkages, and in this regard directing particular efforts to building national capacity for inclusive, equitable, participatory, transparent and accountable national development processes to empower the poor and people in vulnerable. In its preparations for the post-2015 agenda, the UN has underscored its commitment to human rights as both the means and the end of development; central to implementing the new agenda and ensuring a ‘people centred’ development that leaves no one behind and no one out.

Guidance Note on Human Rights (2015)

Human rights are reflected in the United Nations (UN) Charter as one of the core purposes of theCover Screenshot
organization. The duties and responsibilities for upholding these universal human rights, values and principles allocated to Resident Coordinators (RC) and UN Country Teams will have a significant bearing on the UN’s impact.

The three pillars of the UN system—human rights, development, and peace and security—are interlinked and mutually reinforcing, and RCs and UN Country Teams need to promote all three pillars. UN development cooperation efforts must be built squarely—and explicitly—on the principles set out in the UN Charter and the international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Knowing how to meet these norms and standards,  consistently and effectively, in policy, advocacy, programming and engagement with national counterparts, is essential for the success of the UN on the ground. The UN’s contribution to protecting and promoting human rights is both a normative duty, and an operational imperative for ensuring more equitable and sustainable development outcomes.

The UN’s human rights mandate brings opportunities as well as many challenges to the UN country presence. This Guidance Note aims to help the RC system take on these opportunities and challenges. While recognizing the RC’s senior leadership role and coordination responsibilities, this Note also addresses the role of the UN Country Team and the entire UN system in upholding the human rights values and principles enshrined in the UN Charter. Finally, the role of senior UN leadership and mechanisms at global and regional levels is also defined as essential for guidance and support to be provided to colleagues at country level, as they discharge their roles and responsibilities.

Please write to humanrights@undg.org for further information or to share good practices.

Human Rights-Based Approach

A human rights-based approach is a conceptual framework for the process of human development that is normatively based on international human rights standards and principles and operationally directed to promoting human rights. Under a human rights-based approach, the plans, policies and processes of development are anchored in a system of rights and corresponding obligations established by international law, including all civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, labour rights and the right to development.

A human rights-based approach to programming facilitates a sharp focus on results, in line with the international human rights treaties and other internationally agreed goals, targets, norms and standards. It assists countries in translating such goals and standards into time-bound and achievable national results, and promotes participatory and inclusive processes of development.

UNCTs working in the ‘Delivering as One’ context emphasized that HRBA has proven to be an exceptional framework for bringing together the different UN values and principles and has emphasized the normative role of the UN. Over the last few years, an increasingly large number of UN Country Teams have been assisting national partners in achieving equitable and sustainable development results by applying a human rights-based approach.

Common Learning Package on HRBA

The UN Inter-agency common learning package on HRBA (CLP) aims to strengthen the capacity of UN staff to apply a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to UN common country programming.   It is based on the 2003 UN Common Understanding on HRBA and targets the UN Country Team with emphasis on the Resident Coordinator, Heads of Agencies and programme officers and technical level staff with responsibility for developing CCA/UNDAFs. National partners are also targeted as the objective of the trainings is to take forward a HRBA to national programming.  As HRBA is one of the 5 core UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) programming principles, the CLP guides UNCTs  in applying a HRBA to every stage of the UNDAF cycle: assessment & analysis, priority setting, planning, implementation and M&E.   The HRBA CLP is meant to be a flexible tool for training on HRBA and can be enhanced and complemented on a regular basis.  Currently, the training package consists of a facilitation guide and learning tools including relevant power points, handouts, and for some modules, group exercises and case studies. Further information and to download the CLP in English, Spanish, French and Arabic can be found here.

Engaging with the International Human Rights Mechanisms

The Secretary-General has often underscored the importance of human rights as one of the three pillars of the United Nations and has called on Resident Coordinators (RC) to play a greater role in this regard.  Engagement with the main United Nations human rights mechanisms – the Universal Periodic Review, the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and the Human Rights Treaty Bodies – provides a vital opportunity to strengthen this agenda within the UN development system. UN Country Team plays a critical role in facilitating the engagement of national stakeholders with them. Read more on the UNDG-HRWGs work on strengthening engagement with the international human rights mechanisms.

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