Civil society organisations trained on Human Rights Based ApproachDec 23, 2016
Are those who possess certain rights able to effectively get their voices heard? Are those who need to deliver on rights observance indeed able to get their work done? These are questions answered by the human rights based approach (HRBA) to development programming. Civil society organisations can become so much more efficient in their work, if they integrate the approach in their everyday work. To help them with this, UNDP organized together with its partner CSO MART in Lviv, western Ukraine, a 3-day training for 18 trainers from different civil society organisations (CSOs). They will now further promote this approach to other CSOs in all regions of Ukraine.
The HRBA has become one of the guiding approaches in the activities of international organisations and development agencies. The United Nations and its agencies have started steering their development principles towards HRBA as a technique to promote sustainable social development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have re-lifted human rights issues into the political agenda, and in this way they contributed to creating a new sphere of sustainable social development through the involvement of a wider range of stakeholders. Throughout this process, the role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has gained even more importance, as these organisations have the greatest potential to apply sustainable development approaches on the ground. HRBA is currently considered a state-of-the-art approach to advance social development. But what does it really mean to apply this approach? And what difference does it make if an organisation decides to apply it or not?
It is widely recognised that promoting and protecting human rights is crucial for achieving peace, sustainable human development, democracy and security, and that these common goals are inseparably linked. The HRBA is a technique used to achieve these goals, and it clearly brings many benefits in terms of increasing the participation of the local community; reducing vulnerabilities by focusing on the most marginalised and excluded groups in society; improving transparency and accountability; promoting the respect of human rights and helping governments to achieve their human rights commitments; leading to sustained change as human rights based programs have been designed to have impact on cultural and social norms and values, structures, policy, and practice.
Despite these clear benefits and the potential to advance social development, the application of HRBA by CSOs is far less common. A “Regional study on the application of HRBA by civil society organizations in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine” commissioned by UNDP shows that the real understanding of HRBA is quite low, and most CSOs do not know how to apply the approach, although some might apply it unconsciously. As much as a third of CSOs may have a wrong understanding of the approach, while out of these a large majority (83%) could be under the false perception that they are in fact applying HRBA.
The potential scope of applying HRBA in Ukraine is big. The legislative framework provides Ukrainian CSOs with favourable conditions to apply HRBA, as the Law on Civic Unions entitles them with the right to defend citizens’ rights and freedoms and to promote satisfying social interests. This is an important advantage for HRBA application, as there are less external obstacles to applying the HRBA principles of transparency and participation since the organisations can operate openly and there are no legal obstacles to the participation of citizens.
In order to fully take advantage of this favorable social and political environment in Ukraine, a training of 18 trainers on HRBA for the CSO hubs was organised by the CSO MART and UNDP to help them acquire the necessary skills and knowledge for transferring the knowledge of HRBA to the other CSOs in their regions. During the three-days training the participants acquired a good understanding of the fundamental principles of HRBA; they learned how to introduce the HRBA in the programmes and projects of their organization; and they were informed about additional elements to consider while planning training activities for the local activists on the implementation of HRBA.
The human rights aspects of the reform agenda are crucial for UNDP. Therefore, we expect that the trainers from the CSO hubs, who were equipped with trainers’ guides and training materials, willl further conduct their own trainings in the regions in early 2017. In such a way, we expect to reach up to 200 representatives of smaller CSOs. UNDP will then support concrete initiatives of these CSOs related with improvement of their policies and practices and their alignment with the requirements of the HRBA.
The approach is already producing some clear results. "Tamarysk" Centre - a Ukrainian CSO that supports civic and cultural initiatives - applied the HRBA to better help one of their target communities close the gap with the local administration, which was felt as distant to the needs of its citizens. The organisation’s work resulted in the City Council starting to disclose the agenda items considered at its sessions. This helped strenghten trust between the civil society, the authorities and the citizens at large . Moreover, the City Council recently announced that it would allocate UAH 500,000 (ca. US$ 20,000) annually to projects that are initiated by the local community. Read more about this story here.