IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Who practices rights-based development? A progress report on work at the nexus of human rights and development


  • Nelson, Paul J.
  • Dorsey, Ellen


Human rights-based approaches to development have attracted practitioners’ support and scholarly interest for at least 20 years. After two decades of interest, how are they being implemented? This paper is an update and re-assessment of the record of development and human rights agencies’ involvement in human rights-based work on development policy. We find that some development agencies have adopted rights-based approaches and made systematic changes in practice, but the rhetoric has far exceeded substantive changes. Drawing on documentary evidence and the extensive literature, we analyze the factors constraining implementation in development agencies (political, conceptual and organizational), and document broader, more transformative changes among human rights NGOs. Their expanded work on development policy issues has featured new research and advocacy agendas, the embrace of new skill sets, significant new methodologies, and the formation of many new, specialized agencies that provide much of the dynamism in the human rights-development interactions. The findings suggest that we need a careful assessment of the extent of “rights-based” work among development funders and NGOs, and its impact; and they highlight the increasingly influential role that human rights NGOs play in framing and influencing important social, economic and environmental policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Nelson, Paul J. & Dorsey, Ellen, 2018. "Who practices rights-based development? A progress report on work at the nexus of human rights and development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 97-107.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:104:y:2018:i:c:p:97-107
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.11.006

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Steven Friedman & Shauna Mottiar, 2005. "A Rewarding Engagement? The Treatment Action Campaign and the Politics of HIV/AIDS," Politics & Society, , vol. 33(4), pages 511-565, December.
    2. Nelson, Paul J. & Dorsey, Ellen, 2003. "At the Nexus of Human Rights and Development: New Methods and Strategies of Global NGOs," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(12), pages 2013-2026, December.
    3. Miquel de Paladella Salord, 2005. "MDGs as Friends or Foes for Human and Child Rights," Development, Palgrave Macmillan;Society for International Deveopment, vol. 48(1), pages 115-121, March.
    4. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr & Terra Lawson-Remer & Susan Randolph, 2008. "Measuring the Progressive Realization of Human Rights Obligations: An Index of Economic and Social Rights Fulfillment," Economic Rights Working Papers 8, University of Connecticut, Human Rights Institute.
    5. Hilson, Gavin, 2012. "Corporate Social Responsibility in the extractive industries: Experiences from developing countries," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 131-137.
    6. Sakiko Fukuda‐Parr, 2010. "Reducing Inequality – The Missing MDG: A Content Review of PRSPs and Bilateral Donor Policy Statements," IDS Bulletin, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 41(1), pages 26-35, January.
    7. McGranahan, Gordon, 2015. "Realizing the Right to Sanitation in Deprived Urban Communities: Meeting the Challenges of Collective Action, Coproduction, Affordability, and Housing Tenure," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 242-253.
    8. Alicia Ely Yamin & Vanessa M. Boulanger, 2014. "Why Global Goals and Indicators Matter: The Experience of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the Millennium Development Goals," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(2-3), pages 218-231, July.
    9. Nelson, Paul J., 2007. "Human Rights, the Millennium Development Goals, and the Future of Development Cooperation," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(12), pages 2041-2055, December.
    10. Gauri, Varun, 2004. "Social Rights and Economics: Claims to Health Care and Education in Developing Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 465-477, March.
    11. Banks, Nicola & Hulme, David & Edwards, Michael, 2015. "NGOs, States, and Donors Revisited: Still Too Close for Comfort?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 707-718.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Gugerty, Mary Kay & Mitchell, George E. & Santamarina, Francisco J., 2021. "Discourses of evaluation: Institutional logics and organizational practices among international development agencies," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 146(C).
    2. David Mosse & Sundara Babu Nagappan, 2021. "NGOs as Social Movements: Policy Narratives, Networks and the Performance of Dalit Rights in South India," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 52(1), pages 134-167, January.
    3. Vandenhole Wouter, 2019. "Towards a Fourth Moment in Law and Development?," The Law and Development Review, De Gruyter, vol. 12(2), pages 265-283, June.
    4. Jenderedjian, Anna & Bellows, Anne C., 2019. "Addressing food and nutrition security from a human rights-based perspective: A mixed-methods study of NGOs in post-Soviet Armenia and Georgia," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 46-56.
    5. Collins, Tara M. & Wright, Laura H.V., 2022. "The challenges for children’s rights in international child protection: Opportunities for transformation," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 159(C).

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Nelson, Paul J., 2007. "Human Rights, the Millennium Development Goals, and the Future of Development Cooperation," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(12), pages 2041-2055, December.
    2. Gauri, Varun, 2012. "MDGs that nudge : the Millennium Development Goals, popular mobilization, and the post-2015 development framework," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6282, The World Bank.
    3. Cem Iskender Aydin & Begum Ozkaynak & Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos & Taylan Yenilmez, 2017. "Network effects in environmental justice struggles: An investigation of conflicts between mining companies and civil society organizations from a network perspective," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 12(7), pages 1-20, July.
    4. Mahsa Mesgar & Diego Ramirez-Lovering & Mohamed El-Sioufi, 2021. "Tension, Conflict, and Negotiability of Land for Infrastructure Retrofit Practices in Informal Settlements," Land, MDPI, vol. 10(12), pages 1, November.
    5. Deanna Kemp & John R. Owen, 2022. "Corporate social irresponsibility, hostile organisations and global resource extraction," Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 29(5), pages 1816-1824, September.
    6. J. C. Keenan & D. L. Kemp & R. B. Ramsay, 2016. "Company–Community Agreements, Gender and Development," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 135(4), pages 607-615, June.
    7. Van Alstine, James & Barkemeyer, Ralf, 2014. "Business and development: Changing discourses in the extractive industries," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 4-16.
    8. Basu, Tirthankar & Das, Arijit, 2020. "Identification of backward district in India by applying the principal component analysis and fuzzy approach: A census based study," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 72(C).
    9. Tomas Frederiksen, 2016. "Corporate social responsibility and political settlements in the mining sector in Ghana, Zambia and Peru," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series esid-074-16, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    10. Graw, Valerie & Husmann, Christine Ladenburger, 2012. "Mapping Marginality Hotspots – Geographical Targeting for Poverty Reduction," Working Papers 147917, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    11. Oier Imaz & Andoni Eizagirre, 2020. "Responsible Innovation for Sustainable Development Goals in Business: An Agenda for Cooperative Firms," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(17), pages 1-20, August.
    12. Sampson Addo Yeboah, 2022. "Solving Local Problems or Looking Good: An Ethnography of the Field Practices of Foreign Sponsored NGOs in Rural African Communities," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 34(3), pages 1645-1661, June.
    13. Bhalotra, Sonia & Fernandez, Manuel, 2021. "The Right to Health and the Health Effects of Denials," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1376, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    14. Wang, Jian & Huang, Xu & Hu, Ke & Li, Xin, 2018. "Evaluation on community development programs in mining industry: A case study of small and medium enterprise in China," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 516-524.
    15. Marc Bascompta & Lluís Sanmiquel & Carla Vintró & Mohammad Yousefian, 2022. "Corporate Social Responsibility Index for Mine Sites," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(20), pages 1-24, October.
    16. Mtero, Farai, 2017. "Rural livelihoods, large-scale mining and agrarian change in Mapela, Limpopo, South Africa," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 190-200.
    17. Korski, Jacek & Tobór–Osadnik, Katarzyna & Wyganowska, Małgorzata, 2016. "Reasons of problems of the polish hard coal mining in connection with restructuring changes in the period 1988–2014," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 25-31.
    18. Lee, Jihyun & Lee, Yuri, 2015. "The interactions of CSR, self-congruity and purchase intention among Chinese consumers," Australasian marketing journal, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 19-26.
    19. Roy Maconachie & Radhika Srinivasan & Nicholas Menzies, 2015. "Responding to the Challenge of Fragility and Security in West Africa," World Bank Publications - Reports 22511, The World Bank Group.
    20. Pereira, Vijay & Tuffour, James & Patnaik, Swetketu & Temouri, Yama & Malik, Ashish & Singh, Sanjay Kumar, 2021. "The quest for CSR: Mapping responsible and irresponsible practices in an intra-organizational context in Ghana’s gold mining industry," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 268-281.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:104:y:2018:i:c:p:97-107. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Catherine Liu (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.