Adopting Rights-Based Approaches (RBA) 


Uwe in GuatemalaRights-based approaches (RBA) to development have been widely adopted among development-oriented organizations. This diffusion of human rights ideas into the field of development offers opportunities to study in what ways strategies and tactics of traditional development NGOs change as a result of adopting a human rights framework in their efforts to alleviate persisten poverty. It also allows for the study of new TNGO coalitions emerging across the previously largely separate issue areas of human rights and development. Finally, we can begin to ask questions about the efficacy of advocacy strategies in the context of economic, social, and cultural rights. The interdisciplinary background of faculty and staff involved in the TNGO Initiative provides us with the necessary expertise to understand how RBA is adopted and implemented and how its success as a development strategy can be assessed.

We combine academic research with applied work to serve the needs of TNGOs. Our initial efforts focused in 2008 on the evaluation of Plan International’s country program in Guatemala which focused on the initial experience of adopting a rights-based approach and the effects of this paradigm shift on their relationship with local stakeholders. Today, we pursue several RBA-related research projects, including:

1. A global review of Plan International’s rights-based approach conducted in close collaboration with the U.S. office of Plan International. The central aim of this project is to identify and trace the causal mechanisms through which a rights discourse and human rights-related strategies contribute to improved effectiveness and sustainability of Plan’s programs. Secondly, the project aims to identify scope conditions under which a rights-based approach is effective and sustainable. The results of this project are expected to be available by July 2011.

2. In partnership with the Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala, the TNGO Initiative is planning an in-depth assessment of the effects of rights-based approaches implemented by transnational NGOs on grassroots citizen agency, non-elite leadership formation and democratic capacities of local communities in Guatemala. The funding acquisition process for this project is currently in process.

Hans Peter Schmitz, the director for research of the TNGO Initiative serves in 2010/11 as a member of the American Political Science Association task force on Democracy, Economic Security, and Social Justice in a Volatile World. 


RBA Publications

Bruno-van Vijfeijken, Tosca, Uwe Gneiting, Hans Peter Schmitz, and Otto Valle (contributing author): Rights-Based Approach to Development. Learning from Guatemala, a report commissioned by Plan International, Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs 2010.

Gneiting, Uwe, Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken, Hans Peter Schmitz, and Ricardo Gomez: Setting Higher Goals: Rights and Development, in: Monday Developments 27 (12), 19-20 (2009).