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Reflections on Rights-Based Approaches from our March visiting TNGO practitioner

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Ricardo Gomez, former country director of Plan International in Guatemala, provided the following reflections on his research on RBA with the TNGO Initiative: 






Rights Based Approach (RBA) programming aims to ensure the exercise of rights via a process that starts with the poorest and most deprived populations, requiring their active participation to generate bottom up action aimed to guarantee the realization of all human rights across all sectors of the population. 






State institutions (good governance) and citizenship (active civil society) are the essential pillars  



of RBA to ensure the primary roles of the state as duty bearer and of citizens as right holders are executed. Rights are truly exercised –only- when the state fulfils its obligations to guarantee rights to all citizens. NGO’s tend to distort this equation by permanently providing direct services and goods to citizens, discounting the legal responsibility of the state. When this takes place, poor populations tend to lose their sense of citizenship and their status as right holders. NGOs with constant handouts  –charity - turn citizens into beggars. 


Plan International, a TNGO working in 67 countries in five continents has started to implement a rights based approach to strengthen its impact on children’s lives and rights. Plan International in Guatemala started this process in 2004, gradually moving away from a service delivery and community led projects. Plan Guatemala’s six year RBA experience was evaluated by the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs which highlighted positive outcomes as well as a set of challenges to be addressed in the near future. 


Plan Guatemala’s RBA supports the exercise of the right to health. Plan Guatemala (PG)used to provide health services to 600 rural communities, and in 2005 started to implement an RBA strategy. In January 2005, PG signed an agreement with the Ministry of Health to extend their services to communities associated with Plan. At the same time, PG implemented a program to support citizens to access, embrace and monitor these services. During the first year, PG financed 80% of the Ministry of Health’s program budget, while in subsequent years this financial support declined systematically till Ministry assumed all costs. This agreement ended in March 2009, the Ministry complied with all the terms and up to date communities continue to exercise their rights to maternal and child health care services.  


RBA requires TNGO’s to be more strategic and less operational, to move away from direct service delivery and handouts, to ensure institutions fulfill their duties. 

 by Ricardo Gomez, March 2010


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