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Human Rights and Human Development

Listed author(s):
  • 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.

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Human Rights Institute in its series Economic Rights Working Papers with number 4.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2007
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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