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The Human Rights-Based Approach to Social Protection - Issue Brief 2, August 2016

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This Issue Brief introduces readers to the human rights-based approach to social protection. It highlights the fundamental principles of this approach, which are explored in detail at, and directs readers to the key human rights instruments and other tools that are available to help policy makers and practitioners advocate for and operationalize a rights-based approach to social protection.

UNRISD Issue Briefs flag ideas and contribute knowledge that can improve the quality of development debates, policy and practice. This set of Issue Briefs on Social Protection and Human Rights is meant to raise awareness of the possibilities and the challenges of aligning social protection and human rights. They present a range of key issues in order to catalyse discussion, and thereby to contribute to the design, implementation and evaluation of human rights-based social protection systems.

What is the Human Rights-Based Approach?

The human rights-based approach (HRBA) is a conceptual framework which is applicable in all development fields, and that is normatively based on international human rights standards and operationally directed to promoting and protecting human rights. It is used to analyse obligations, inequalities and vulnerabilities, and to tackle discriminatory practices and unjust distributions of power that impede and undercut human rights.
Under a human rights-based approach, plans, policies and programmes are anchored in a system of rights and corresponding obligations established by international law. This helps to promote sustainability, empowering people themselves (rights holders)—especially the most marginalized—to participate in policy formulation and hold accountable those who have a duty to act (duty bearers).
A human rights-based approach consists of a number of essential attributes:

■ As policies and programmes are formulated, the main objective should be to fulfil human rights.

■ A human rights-based approach identifies rights holders and their entitlements and corresponding duty bearers and their obligations, and works towards strengthening the capacities of rights holders to make their claims and of duty bearers to meet their obligations.