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The New European Consensus on Development reinforces the commitment of the EU and Member States to implementing a rights-based approach to development cooperation, encompassing all human rights (see The Human Rights Based Approach)

The human right-based approach complements the analysis on the root causes of poverty. It ensures that development cooperation does not merely treat the symptoms but also the roots of governance problems, by addressing them from both top-down and bottom-up perspectives. In this sense, it represents a final layer of quality improvement of development cooperation.

This approach considers human rights principles and standards both as a means and a goal of development cooperation. It changes the classic analytical approach, integrating the achievement and fulfilment of human rights into the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all development policies and interventions.

It is a qualitative methodology that requires a shift in the way development interventions are conceptualised, planned and implemented. It systematically integrates human rights in all phases of the intervention cycle in any policy area, thus contributing to policy coherence.

Under the approach, cooperation action should always contribute to developing the capacities of 'duty bearers' (state actors) to meet their obligations and of 'rights holders' (citizens, target groups) to claim their rights.
Five working principles apply, in line with the commitment of 'leaving no one behind':

  1. Applying all rights, reaffirming the legality, universality and indivisibility of human rights.
  2. Accessing the decision-making process. Participation and inclusion are rights and should be considered the basis of an active citizenship, not just a simple formality.
  3. No discriminating. People have equal access to public services and goods through development interventions. Most marginalised groups should be given priority, so that development actions avoid contributing to established patterns of discrimination.
  4. Accountability. Cooperation must promote accountability mechanisms at both the central and local levels; also, development partners are accountable to rights holders.
  5. Transparency. Development interventions should be transparent, with information available in accessible formats, including for people living in marginalised situations.