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Human Rights Help Change Development for the Better




Participants from six countries took part in human rights training for development work. Changing mindsets can revolutionize future development work, participants say.

Text and photo: Jacob Basbøll, The Danish Institute for Human Rights.

Is there more to development work than building wells, roads and schools? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ according to the 20 participants who underwent a three-week course on human rights based approach (HRBA) to development programming, in June 2015, at the Danish Institute for Human Rights. The course was funded by the Danida Fellowship Centre.

The course emphasizes the need for incorporating human rights in all aspects of the development work.

“A key principle is that the goal of development becomes both a realization of human rights and the more traditional goal of poverty reduction. And that requires a whole new mindset from the participants,” explains special advisor, Una Verdel from the Danish Institute for Human Rights, who led the course.

New way to work

Judging from the participants’ responses to the course, the change of mindsets has happened.

“The course has given us a new insight into how to include human rights in our development work. Human rights must be included in all we do. People’s rights must be protected and respected throughout all aspects of our work,” says senior district director, Richmond Mensah of the Ghanaian Human Rights Commission.

“I had a meeting with the president of my institution, and I told him about the HRBA and the principles, and the changes we need to make in our institution when we are planning or designing a new project – the need to take into account the human rights and so on. He agreed with everything,” says Dolly Aliaga of CARITAS Bolivia.

The Danish Institute for Human Rights is pleased with the attitude of the participants.

“There were a lot of participants from state actors, and they have been doing development work for ages. But they were all very open and saw the usefulness of the human rights based approach,” Una Verdel explains.

Path to future work

The course is evaluated in three ways: Anonymously, in plenary at the last day of training, and by learning assessments prior to the course and after. This enables the institute to monitor the learning experience. The participants offered very positive reviews;

“It has been one week since we completed the course. The usefulness of this course, my work and my personal carrier goals cannot be overstated. It has changed me and the work I do in many ways,” said  Abdul Fatawu Tambro from Action Aid, Global Platform Ghana.

But the answers are not only used as a pad on the shoulder for the organizers of the course.

“These courses are tests of whether human rights based approach actually can spur change. These responses show that it absolutely can – and we take the experience onwards in our future work on human rights based approach,” Una Verdel says.

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