Is a human rights-based approach consistent with the requirement for national ownership?

Yes. A human rights-based approach draws from international human rights standards voluntarily subscribed to by the country in question. United Nations development agencies and other “subjects of international law” are legally bound to respect, and operate within the confines established by, the international legal obligations voluntarily entered into by States, including those relating to human rights.

States parties to the international human rights treaties are required to harmonize their national legislation with the international standards. Accordingly, national constitutions across different legal systems increasingly reflect not just civil and political rights but also economic, social and cultural rights. To this extent, the fundamental human rights objectives expressed in the Charter of the United Nations—the foundation for all United Nations-supported development activities—are consistent with and grounded within the principle of national ownership.

Nevertheless, a human rights-based approach is sometimes viewed with suspicion as an external conditionality or the latest development fad or donor import. These concerns are often voiced in good faith, although sometimes they may mask a desire to avoid human rights obligations.

Clear communication is needed on the distinctive meaning and requirements of a human rights-based approach in all situations, within the framework of a genuine development partnership. The United Nations and all those involved in implementing a human rights-based approach must themselves walk the talk in order to have credibility in policy dialogues on these issues.

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