Public Services based on Human Rights
5 July 2021
Building up a methodology
A human rights-based approach is a working methodology based on the fundamental principles of internationally recognised human rights. It aims to promote, protect and fulfil human rights and democracy in practice by integrating norms, standards and principles of international human rights law.
In this context, international law sets out the obligations of States to act or to refrain in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.
Thus, it can be considered that right-holders are all those to whom a policy, programme or service is addressed. On the other hand, States and government institutions are considered duty-bearers, translated into the obligation to fulfil and enforce human rights for all, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and should empower right-holders to claim their rights and duty-bearers to fulfil their obligations.
Considering service design and delivery, namely public services, a human rights-based approach can bring clear benefits:
- Increases and strengthens community participation;
- Promotes State transparency and Open Administration;
- Contributes to tangible results;
- Improves State and duty-bearers accountability;
- Reduces vulnerabilities by focusing on the most marginalised and excluded os society.
Essentially, such approach can promote effective and sustained change, since human rights-based programmes and services prove to have a greater impact on the norms and values, structures, policies and practices of a democratic society.
There are two types of perspectives that can be considered in the context of human rights-based public services:
- Services that directly contribute to accomplish fundamental human rights, including services related to health access (e.g. medical appointments), education (e.g. school enrolment or higher education admission) or social protection (e.g. services to access specific support or social benefits).
- Generic services, which do not directly contribute to fundamental rights fulfilment, but should also be accessible, transparent and available, regardless of the citizens’ profile (e.g. services regarding nationality access, fulfilling social or tax obligations).