Evaluation of the application and effects of a Human Rights Based Approach

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A Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) is a normative approach and a method that sees human rights and democracy as fundamental for development. Sida is a leading donor when it comes to working with a HRBA and is committed to applying a HRBA in all development cooperation that it engages in. This evaluation was commissioned to support Sida in systematising knowledge and learning and generating lessons on what has worked well, less well and why, by understanding how and to what extent a HRBA is applied in Swedish development cooperation, specifically evaluating the relevance, effectiveness and impact of the application of a HRBA and its four principles of participation, accountability, openness and transparency, and non-discrimination.

The evaluation focused on addressing six questions: (1) the extent to which a HRBA is applied by Sida, Swedish embassies and co-operation partners; (2) whether the application of a HRBA is in line with national policy frameworks; (3) the overall impact of the application of a HRBA; (4) how co-operation partners perceive the HRBA and whether their perception has been influenced by Sida and embassies; (5) if lessons learnt from what works well and less well have been collected and used; and (6) how multilateral organisations perceive a HRBA and whether their perceptions and application of a HRBA can be traced back to Sida or Swedish embassies.

The evaluation used a robust case based approach that builds on a politically-informed and context-specific analytical framework, allowing the evaluation team to examine how perceptions, applications and effects of HRBA varied across actors and contexts, and capturing the undocumented nature of individual stakeholder perceptions and cognitive interpretations. The evaluation included four country case studies (Albania, Cambodia, Colombia and Kenya), which were identified through a ‘most likely’ case selection strategy, oriented towards strategic HRBA efforts made in these countries. Data collection and analysis took place from May 2019 to May 2020, drawing on interviews with nearly 300 key informants, six group discussions involving Sida staff, nine group discussions with co-operation partner staff and community members, a review of more than 750 documents and organisational websites, and analysis of national and international statistics.

The evaluation concluded that there is often no clear distinction in purpose – whether by Sida, Swedish embassies or cooperation partners – between applying a HRBA and putting advancement of human rights at the centre of work. An important effect of Sweden’s application of a HRBA is that it has strengthened the country’s commitment to promoting and protecting human rights. The application of the HRBA has been the basis for principled, long-term support to actors who share the goal of promoting development towards a more open society. Specific results relating to the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights included increased awareness of human rights, improved capacities in advancing HRBA principles, increased participation, voice and agency, improved accountability and transparency, and increased access to basic services.

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