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Human rights based approaches to developmen t: concepts, evidence, and policy


  • Gauri, Varun
  • Gloppen, Siri


This paper assesses the benefits, risks, and limitations of human rights based approaches to development, which can be catalogued on the basis of the institutional mechanisms they rely on: global compliance based on international and regional treaties; the policies and programming of donors and executive agencies; rights talk; and legal mobilization. The paper briefly reviews the politics of the first three kinds of human rights based approaches before examining constitutionally based legal mobilization for social and economic rights in greater detail. Litigation for social and economic rights is increasing in frequency and scope in several countries, and exhibits appealing attributes, such as inclusiveness and deliberative quality. Still, there are potential problems with this form of human rights based mobilization, including middle class capture, the potential counter-majoritarianism of courts, and difficulties in compliance. The conclusion summarizes what is known, and what remains to be studied, regarding human rights based approaches to development.

Suggested Citation

  • Gauri, Varun & Gloppen, Siri, 2012. "Human rights based approaches to developmen t: concepts, evidence, and policy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5938, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5938

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eric Neumayer, 2006. "Do international human rights treaties improve respect for human rights?," Conferences on New Political Economy,in: Max Albert & Stefan Voigt & Dieter Schmidtchen (ed.), Conferences on New Political Economy, edition 1, volume 23, pages 69-104(36 Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen.
    2. Varun Gauri, 2011. "The cost of complying with human rights treaties: The convention on the rights of the child and basic immunization," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 6(1), pages 33-56, March.
    3. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Rukmini Banerji & Esther Duflo & Rachel Glennerster & Stuti Khemani, 2010. "Pitfalls of Participatory Programs: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Education in India," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 1-30, February.
    4. Hafner-Burton, Emilie M., 2008. "Sticks and Stones: Naming and Shaming the Human Rights Enforcement Problem," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(04), pages 689-716, October.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:102:y:2008:i:04:p:417-433_08 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Moravcsik, Andrew, 1997. "Taking Preferences Seriously: A Liberal Theory of International Politics," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(04), pages 513-553, September.
    7. Ritva Reinikka & Jakob Svensson, 2005. "Fighting Corruption to Improve Schooling: Evidence from a Newspaper Campaign in Uganda," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 259-267, 04/05.
    8. repec:cup:apsrev:v:96:y:2002:i:04:p:697-712_00 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Blanchet-Cohen, Natasha & Bedeaux, Christophe, 2014. "Towards a rights-based approach to youth programs: Duty-bearers' perspectives," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 75-81.
    2. Shareen Hertel, 2015. "Hungry for Justice: Social Mobilization on the Right to Food in India," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 46(1), pages 72-94, January.

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    Human Rights; Gender and Law; Health Law; Parliamentary Government; Population Policies;

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