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Universal human rights

Human rights – a guiding principle of German development policy


Gesetzeswerke im Regal eines Besprechungszimmers des Bundesverfassungsgerichts, oben: Richterbarette. Urheberrecht: BPA, Reineke

Germany and the majority of its partner coun­tries for de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion have ratified the in­ter­national human rights treaties, and thus recognised the implementation thereof as a binding obligation. When the Federal Ministry for Economic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (BMZ) published its strategy paper on human rights in May 2011, the human rights-based approach was mainstreamed as a binding element of German de­vel­op­ment policy. This means that all the German gov­ern­ment’s de­vel­op­ment policy work is oriented systematically toward human rights standards and principles.

A multi-level approach

The German gov­ern­ment is working to help realise human rights on various levels:

  • At global level – by supporting the de­vel­op­ment of in­ter­national and regional human rights instruments and institutions.

  • In partner coun­tries – through policy dialogue with governments and specific projects and programmes.

  • In the private sector – by promoting and supporting corporate social re­spon­si­bil­i­ty that respects, protects and fulfils human rights.

  • In Germany – through publicity campaigns that raise public awareness of human rights issues, and by supporting the German Institute for Human Rights.

One im­por­tant goal of German de­vel­op­ment policy is to enable people to claim their rights and shape their own lives. It is they who should be the agents of their own de­vel­op­ment. This human rights-based approach leads to a change of perspective: the "needy" become bearers of rights, while the state and its organs become bearers of obligations.

The BMZ pursues a dual approach in this context. On the one hand it promotes measures that systematically strengthen the rights of disadvantaged sections of the popu­la­tion – such as women, children and youth, people with disabilities, indigenous peoples or sexual minorities. On the other hand it mainstreams the human rights-based approach across all sectors and priority areas of de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion.

Human rights are not negotiable

The German gov­ern­ment holds that the protection of human rights is not negotiable. Progress and problems are addressed in policy dialogue with partner coun­tries. In the event of serious human rights violations, official de­vel­op­ment assistance may be scaled down or suspended. In such cases the German gov­ern­ment tries to support the poorest people and those hardest hit by human rights violations in the coun­tries concerned in different ways, for instance by making financial contributions to the work of churches, political foundations and non-governmental organisations.

More information

BMZ glossary

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