Advancing human rights

What follow are considerations for taking a human rights perspective from analysis, through planning and design, and finally to implementation of an initiative. They are intended as tools to help applicants complete their application form and consider human rights throughout the lifecycle of their initiative.

Each initiative exists in a very specific context, and addressing human rights should take this context into consideration. As such, applicants may find certain questions more relevant than others and are encouraged to use this tool as a guide. Global Affairs Canada does not expect applicants to provide answers to all questions in their application form or associated documentation, but rather the questions are meant to help inform applicants’ thinking behind a human rights analysis, and guide the planning, design, and implementation of an initiative in a human rights-sensitive manner.

By considering human rights throughout the lifecycle of an initiative, novel or innovative approaches to particular challenges may emerge that could have significant or even transformative impacts.

Table of Contents

Understanding the broader situation through a human rights analysis

What is the current human rights situation?

What is the core problem, and what are the causes?

Note: Remember to look at the problem in a holistic manner, as many development problems are multi-faceted and require integrated responses.

Who are your stakeholders?

Rights-holders are all people.

Duty-bearers are State actors who have legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights.

Responsibility-holders are actors who have, or could have, a positive or negative influence on the human rights issue under consideration, on those responsible for human rights violations, as well as on rights holders’ and duty bearers’ capacities.

What are the human rights capacity gaps?

Rights-holders: Identify the capacity gaps of the rights-holders that are preventing them from knowing, exercising, claiming and seeking effective remedy for their human rights.

Duty-bearers: Identify the capacity gaps preventing the duty-bearers from respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights obligations and responding to human rights violations.

Responsibility-Holders:  Identify the capacity gaps preventing these groups/individuals from observing and promoting human rights.

Note: If the responsibility-holder is the source of the human rights abuse, many of the questions related to the capacity of the duty-bearer could apply.

Applying Key Human Rights Principles

The following questions capture the key human rights principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation, inclusion, accountability and transparency, and are meant to guide the content (©) and the process (*) of a human rights analysis.

Equality and non-discrimination

  • Are all persons equal before the law (pay attention to explicit legal inequalities including specific gender-based discrimination, social distinctions and exclusions, and indirect discrimination)? ©
  • Which marginalized and/or vulnerable groups experience inequality and discrimination and why?
  • Are laws enforced in an equal manner? ©
  • Do laws prohibit discrimination on any ground, including for example on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, disability? ©
  • Are there cultural norms or traditions that reinforce prejudices and cause discrimination? If so, are these addressed by additional special measures? ©
  • Are there technological barriers to equal access to social, political and economic participation? For example, are marginalized or vulnerable groups excluded from accessing commonly employed information and communications technologies in their local context? ©
  • What steps are taken to ensure the situation analysis undertaken at this stage is not unintentionally discriminatory in its aim, design, conduct and findings? *
  • How could considering human rights at the analysis stage lead to innovative approaches or solutions to inequality and discrimination in this context? *
  • What steps are taken to ensure that collection and/or presentation of findings of this situation analysis do not risk aggravating any existing discrimination, and fueling or creating new tensions? *

Participation and inclusion

  • Is there active and informed participation by the poorest, most marginalized and most vulnerable in the conduct of public affairs? ©
  • Are the voices of the poorest, most marginalized and most vulnerable meaningfully included in decision-making processes? If so, how and by whom? ©
  • What barriers exist to the full participation of marginalized and vulnerable groups in society? Are there barriers specific to the participation of women and girls? ©
  • Is there a commitment by decision-making bodies to accommodate inclusion and participation of the most marginalized and vulnerable? ©
  • Are there mechanisms in place at different levels of decision-making in order to overcome the barriers that the poorest, most marginalized and most vulnerable face in their efforts to meaningfully contribute and participate in society? ©
  • Do rights-holders, especially the poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable, have the capacity to ensure that their participation is meaningful? ©
  • Given that participation is more likely to occur in community-level activities, are decentralized or local Government structures in place? ©
  • Is the situation analysis undertaken in a participatory manner by consulting with the poorest, most marginalized and most vulnerable groups? In particular, are efforts made to ensure the equal representation of women, men, girls and boys? *

Transparency and accountability

  • Are accountability mechanisms accessible, transparent and effective? ©
  • What are the dynamics around responsibility-holders that influence transparency and accountability? Is there civil society and private sector engagement by government? ©
  • Are there innovative and non-formal accountability mechanisms that secure the active and informed participation of the poorest, most marginalized and most vulnerable? ©
  • Are parliaments or parliamentary committees equipped to play a monitoring role? ©
  • Does decentralized and local-level governance enable the poorest, most marginalized and most vulnerable to monitor Government activities? ©
  • Is there a legal framework by which civil society can perform an independent monitoring role? If so, is it fairly and effectively implemented? ©
  • Do rights-holders have access to effective remedy before a domestic authority in the event that human rights have not been upheld? If so, does the domestic authority have the competence to grant reparation to the victim(s)? ©
  • Does access to information legislation exist? If so, is it fairly and effectively implemented? ©
  • How, to whom, and by whom will the findings of the situation analysis be disseminated? *
  • Is the method of data collection and management ensuring the necessary privacy and protection of stakeholders? Are digital threats considered in the context of digital communications? *
  • How is the situation analysis distinguishing between inability and unwillingness of duty-bearers to fulfill human rights obligations? *

Considering human rights when planning and designing your initiative

Which human right(s) is the initiative seeking to advance?

How will human rights-related risks identified in the analysis be mitigated?

Drawing from the situation analysis, identify the expected ultimate and intermediate outcomes from your initiative. Intermediate outcomes will describe changes in behaviour, practice or performance on the part of the rights-holders, duty-bearers, and/or responsibility-holders, and reflect key human rights principles.

Once you have identified your expected intermediate outcomes, drawing again from the situation analysis, identify which human rights capacity gaps of rights-holders, duty-bearers and/or responsibility holders it is appropriate for your initiative to address, regardless of the action area under which it falls, and how it will address those gaps. Changes in capacity will become the expected immediate outcomes of the project while the means to address them will become the planned outputs and activities.

In collaboration and consultation with stakeholders, develop the theory of change for your initiative. At Global Affairs Canada, the theory of change for a specific initiative is represented by the logic model and fully explained in the theory of change narrative.

Applying Key Human Rights Principles

The following questions capture the key human rights principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation, inclusion, accountability and transparency. Applicants are not expected to provide responses to these questions; rather, they are meant to guide the planning and design of the initiative, in a human rights-sensitive manner.

Equality and non-discrimination

  • How is it being ensured that the planning and design of the initiative is non-discriminatory?
  • Is there a meaningful gender balance among the individuals involved in the planning and design?
  • Has a Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) been applied to identify barriers to equality and non-discrimination?
  • Among rights-holders, are the most marginalized and most vulnerable groups specifically targeted in the planning and design? How are they identified? What safeguards are in place to ensure their involvement does not lead to increased stigma and discrimination?
  • Does the initiative work with and seek to empower rights-holders who are traditionally excluded or discriminated against?
  • What are the specific needs for data disaggregation? This should be determined by a participatory approach.
  • Is data disaggregated adequately, ideally beyond sex and age, to recognize other identity factors such as race, ethnicity, national or ethnic origin, colour, religious, language, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and/or disability, as well as geographic location?
  • Are there mechanisms in place to address unconscious bias and unintended consequences arising from this initiative?

Participation and inclusion

  • How is the general public participating in the planning and design of the initiative?
  • Are the communities of rights-holders especially concerned with the issue in question participating in the planning and design of the initiative? How are their voices meaningfully included?
  • Among those especially concerned, are the poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable participating in the planning and design of the initiative? How are their voices meaningfully included? In particular, how are women and girls’ voices included?
  • Is capacity development needed for rights-holders, especially the poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable, to ensure that their participation is meaningful?
  • Are there capacity development activities that can be undertaken to empower the poorest, most marginalized and most vulnerable rights-holders to make their voices heard by the duty-bearer?
  • Are there indigenous innovative and informal solutions that can be employed to increase participation and access to public affairs by marginalized and vulnerable communities?
  • Will participation by certain individuals/groups impact their safety and security? Is there risk of reprisals for their participation?
  • Depending on local context, are methodologies proposed from assuring inclusive processes in reality perpetuating exclusion? For example, engagement and knowledge transfer via internet-based platform excludes individuals without access.
  • How is the public included in setting targets and in defining success and failure of the initiative?
  • Are the communities of rights-holders especially concerned with the issue in question included in setting targets and in defining success and failure of the initiative?
  • Among those especially concerned, are the poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable included in setting targets and in defining success and failure of the initiative?
  • In what ways are rights-holders included in determining what data is to be collected, collecting it, analyzing it and feeding back into the initiative?

Transparency and accountability

  • How are the processes and authorities (duty-bearers and/or responsibility-holders) responsible for planning and designing the initiative made known to the public? Are women and men equally informed?
  • Is there transparency about how the initiative is planned and designed, and on what it intends to do?
  • Are all decision-making processes for the initiative transparent and shared with the public? By what means?
  • Is information on the initiative available in accessible formats and in minority languages?
  • Is the process by which beneficiaries and intermediaries are selected transparent, e.g. involving the community in this process, ensuring an appropriate gender balance, and focusing on the most marginalized groups (with due attention to protecting these groups from potential stigma and discrimination)?
  • Is the initiative seeking to strengthen partnerships between duty-bearers and responsibility-holders, including women’s groups and other non-governmental, community-based and professional associations, in order to improve accountability of the duty-bearer?
  • If working with duty-bearers, is there scope to integrate gender-based budgeting?

Addressing human rights throughout implementation, including monitoring and evaluation

Does the project implementation plan outline how the initiative will advance specific human rights?

Does the project implementation plan outline how the risks identified in the analysis will be monitored and the initiative adjusted so that human rights are advanced and potential tensions are addressed?

Do annual work plans include a specific plan for the achievement of human rights outcomes and the application of key human rights principles?

Do narrative reports capture the human rights results?

During implementation, ensure that planned project activities and outputs, including capacity development activities are leading to the achievement of expected outcomes.

Revise project theory of change and implementation plan as new human rights issues are identified, in order to address emerging concerns.

What challenges are being encountered in advancing the human rights targeted by the initiative? For monitoring and mid-term evaluations, how can some of these challenges be mitigated?

Applying Key Human Rights Principles

The following questions capture the key human rights principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation, inclusion, accountability and transparency. Applicants are not expected to provide responses to these questions; rather, they are meant to guide the implementation (including monitoring and evaluation) of the initiative, in a human rights-sensitive manner.

Equality and non-discrimination

  • Is the initiative discriminatory in any way in its implementation? If so, in what setting and by whom?
  • How can discrimination in the initiative’s implementation be combatted?
  • What plans have been made, and what resources allocated, to combat active discrimination?
  • Does the initiative consciously set out to rectify any existing discrimination?
  • How are power inequalities among the intended beneficiaries and/or intermediaries dealt with?
  • How is the initiative ensuring representative input from the poorest, most marginalized and most vulnerable?
  • Is the implementation of the initiative fostering gender equality and the empowerment of women?
  • Is the implementation of the initiative engaging men and boys and raising awareness about how gender equality benefits all?
  • How does the monitoring and evaluation system detect causes, practices and impact of any discriminatory actions that may occur?
  • How are claims of discrimination tracked?
  • Is data disaggregated appropriately, ideally beyond sex and age, to also include, where possible, income, ethnic, Indigenous, linguistic, religious, disability and sexual orientation, gender identity or expression factors, as well as geographic location.
  • What criteria are used to determine to what extent data should be disaggregated, beyond sex and age?
  • Has data collection on particularly marginalized or vulnerable groups, including “legally invisible” groups should been made in close partnership or consultation with the group concerned in order to mitigate possible risks?
  • Is data published in a format that permits detection of possible multiple intersecting disparities and discrimination?

Participation and inclusion

  • How is the public participating in the implementation of the initiative?
  • Are the communities of rights-holders especially concerned with the issue in question participating in implementation of the initiative?
  • Among those especially concerned, are the poorest, most marginalized and most vulnerable participating in the implementation of the initiative?
  • Are the capacities of rights-holders to engage being developed?
  • Are rights-holders adequately organized to participate? What support do they need?
  • How is it ensured that the poorest, most marginalized and most vulnerable rights-holders are benefitting from the implementation of the initiative?
  • How are data collection exercises ensuring free, active and meaningful participation of all stakeholders, including the poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable?

Accountability and transparency

  • How is information disseminated throughout the implementation of the initiative?
  • How is transparency maintained with respect to the initiative’s decision-making processes?
  • What methods of remedy are available to those negatively affected by the initiative?
  • Who can demand accountability during the implementation of the initiative?
  • How is it being ensured that the findings from the initiative’s implementation, monitoring and evaluations are made public?
  • How are findings from the initiative used to inform changes or adjustments in policy or other interventions?
  • Do the findings from the initiative capture lessons-learned from any unintended consequences or externalities of the initiative?
  • Are the processes and decisions by which participants for data collection are selected clear and transparent, paying attention to protect groups that may feel uncomfortable or threatened by data collection?
  • Is data disseminated as quickly as possible after collection? Is dissemination accessible in language and format, taking into account consideration such as disability, language, literacy level and cultural background? This should be balanced with the rights to privacy and data protection.

Further resources

Should you decide to consult external sources to inform your human rights analysis, you may wish to refer to the following:

Other tools that could help with a contextual understanding of the human rights situation include the following:

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