What does the principle of equality and non-discrimination mean for programming?

All individuals are equal as human beings and by virtue of their inherent dignity. All human beings are entitled to their human rights without discrimination of any kind on the grounds of race, colour, sex, ethnicity, age, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status. While development programmes cannot reach everybody at once, priority must be given to the most marginalized.

The processes and benefits of development all too often go to national and local elites. Programming cannot be directed solely at those that are currently easy to reach, such as urban populations rather than rural or boys’ education rather than girls’, otherwise existing power imbalances will simply be exacerbated. Unintentional—or indirect—discrimination must also be avoided. This could occur, for example, when the public at large is invited to participate in programme design, but certain groups are precluded because they live in remote areas. Programming must help to address underlying and systemic causes of discrimination in order to further genuine and substantive equality. Specifically, programming may need to:

  • Direct priority attention towards those suffering discrimination and disadvantage in any given context, especially the poorest of the poor and those suffering multiple discrimination,such as rural women of an ethnic minority.
  • Strengthen capacities for data collection and analysis to ensure that data are disaggregated, as far as possible, on the grounds of race, colour, sex, geographic location and so forth.
  • Advocate temporary special measures to level the playing field and rectify structural discrimination, including affirmative action for women and special forums for participation.
  • Make project information available in accessible formats and minority languages.
  • Support civic education, communication campaigns, law reform and institutional strengthening (including national human rights institutions) to foster nondiscriminatory attitudes and a change in behaviour.


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