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Human Rights and Human Development


  • Sakiko Fukuda-Parr

    (The New School)


This paper uses Sen's capability approach to explore whether there are inherent contradictions between human rights and development. Sen's capability and human development approach provides a conceptual framework within which human rights principles can be incorporated into development planning and action because his theory of development as capability expansion defines the ultimate purpose of development as the expansion of human freedom). The 'human rights based approach' has gained momentum as an idea and is being adopted by several international NGOs and donor agencies in their development work. Yet many development practitioners and economists remain sceptical of this approach and its implementation has been partial. To assess the spread of this approach in government policy, the paper analysed Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers for 55 countries and finds only a few substantially engages with human rights as a development objective or integrate human rights principles into development strategies. The paper reviews the theoretical critiques and concludes that the obstacles to further implementation do not lie with inherent contradictions between human rights principles and development but with gaps in practical approaches. In particular, it identifies interpretation of the principle of indivisibility as a major obstacle; the absolutist interpretation leads to positions that amount to little more than sloganeering that undermines the credibility of the approach. More work is needed to analyse norms of human rights that relate to the duty bearer to promote human rights in development in economic, social and governance policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, 2007. "Human Rights and Human Development," Economic Rights Working Papers 4, University of Connecticut, Human Rights Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:ecriwp:4
    Note: Draft of paper to be included in a festschrift volume in honour of Amartya Sen's 75th birthday edited by Kaushik Basu and Ravi Kanbur, Oxford University Press, 2008 forthcoming. Research assistance from MA Hoekstra, M. Ashwill, L.Chiappa and C. Messineo is gratefully acknowledged.

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    Cited by:

    1. Anand, P B, 2011. "Right to information and local government: an exploration," MPRA Paper 47439, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    uman rights based approach to development; poverty; economic and social rights; capability approach; Amartya Sen; PRSP;

    JEL classification:

    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics
    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J00 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - General
    • L39 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Other

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