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Lessons Learned on the Danish Human Rights-Based Approach

In 2012, the Danish Parliament approved an International Development Cooperation Act which made human rights promotion an overarching objective, together with poverty reduction and promoting Denmark’s interests. In the same year, a new development cooperation strategy, “A Right to a Better Life” was launched, in which promoting poverty reduction and human rights were central tenets. The strategy was accompanied by a Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) guidance note for Danish development cooperation in 2013. The newly launched strategy for development cooperation and humanitarian assistance has retained this commitment to the HRBA.

The evaluation study documents lessons learned from the implementation of the HRBA, in particular the extent to which guidelines and human rights principles have been operationalised and their added value to Danish development cooperation. The study finds that the MFA has been successful in introducing HRBA in programmes and partnerships in a pragmatic way and that the combination of political leadership and technical support has generated broad ownership to the approach. Including the HRBA as part of the Danida country programming system has made its roll out more systematic, and the technical support provided from Copenhagen has facilitated the implementation of the approach. The study concludes that the HRBA however is still strongest in the design phase.

The study also reviews the HRBA experiences of other bilateral, multilateral and nongovernmental organisations and provides suggestions on how to link the Sustainable Development Goals and the HRBA in Danish policy and interventions. Finally, the study makes recommendations to strengthen operationalisation of the HRBA in the future through monitoring of progress on the implementation of the HRBA.


PublisherEvaluation Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Danida, Denmark
AuthorLaure-Hélène Piron and Hans-Otto Sano/The Danish Institute for Human Rights