Speech by Minister Heidi Hautala in Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4)

Speech by Minister Heidi Hautala in Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4)

Thematic session on a rights-based approach; Towards inclusive development: better integration of a rights-based approach into development effectiveness

Opening speech 29.11.2011 by Minister Heidi Hautala, Minister for International Development, Finland

Check against delivery

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to address this distinguished audience and open the thematic session on a rights-based approach.

In my short opening presentation my intention is to reflect on the concept of a rights-based approach to development and its links with development effectiveness. I will attempt to capture the essence of the approach and also the Finnish experience of it. 

The approach has its legal foundation on international human rights law and standards. It can be explored as an objective of development but also as a method and principles guiding the development work.

We believe that the approach is a truly indivisible part of sustainable efforts in the field of poverty reduction, economic prosperity and sustainable management of natural resources. It is key to social equality and, in general, to creating an enabling environment for development.

The human rights based approach underlines the importance of empowerment, inclusion and participation as it strengthens the application of the principles of ownership, accountability and transparency. These are all central elements highlighted in the Paris Declaration of Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action.

The focus on poverty reduction effectively serves human rights goals but the human rights based approach brings more to the development agenda. '

The human rights based approach to development has its focus on the rights of those who are in the most vulnerable and excluded position. There should be no backlashes on any individual or groups’ rights due to development efforts.

It is based on the notion of accountability towards the right holders (i.e. people). Development actions which support capacity building of all actors, are a crucial part of the human rights based approach – effective accountability requires institutions that are responsive and it also requires people who are able to make claims towards these institutions.

The human rights based approach empowers people to take part in the development of their lives. Human beings are treated as active participants in the development process instead of being seeing as passive objects. It is thus strongly linked to other crucial development policy principles: sustainability, inclusiveness and aid effectiveness. When thinking of ownership in development cooperation, we should not limit ourselves to the ownership of the government or the state. One should also think of the civil society and in particular vulnerable groups who are among the ultimate beneficiaries and true subjects of the development. An active citizen who knows his/her rights is a basic foundation of sustainable development and effective accountability.   

Inclusiveness and broad ownership of development cannot exist without transparency. Putting transparency into practice requires active measures that enable access to information, transparent follow-up and monitoring, and mechanisms of meaningful participation. 

This forum provides an opportunity to share experiences among actors on lessons-learnt on the links of human rights based approach to aid effectiveness.

Let me mention some of the lessons we have learnt:

  • This approach - as any approach – will be truly adopted within development policy and cooperation if it is clearly stipulated at the strategic level in policies guiding development actions.  
  • Political dialogue strengthens the human rights based approach with partner countries and within the international community and is vital.
  • Policy level commitments are to be supported by activities ensuring that staff responsible for concrete programming have sufficient capacity to integrate rights-based approaches (training, guidelines).  
  • Dedicated planning and appropriate background policy analyses are conducive to effectiveness and sustainability.
  • Specific projects on particular human rights issues are a possibility to effectively address development needs in one area – for example projects on the rights of the child, education, health etc.
  • Specific human rights projects are not sufficient alone, however, and there is a need for mainstreaming the human rights-based approach to all development actions.
  • At the very operational level, it is important that the concrete planning reflects the human rights-based approach by identifying relevant outcomes, indicators and activities. Programmes should foresee funding needs which enable the human rights-based approach, i.e. reserving funds for consultations, participatory mechanisms, information sharing, and especially for the inclusion of marginalized groups.             
  • An active civil society is a key to development.