Human Rights and Development


A Human Rights-Based Approach to Development Cooperation

Respect for human rights, their protection and their implementation, which are the founding principles of the French Republic, are key priorities for French diplomacy. In the light of the significant regressions observed over the course of the past decade in many regions of the world, France has adopted, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a new and different Human Rights and Development Strategy. The objective is to make our development cooperation policy a lever for our diplomacy to further human rights.

Mobilizing official development assistance to meet the challenges of protecting human rights

Fully in line with France’s action to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, this strategy reaffirms the indissociable link between human rights and sustainable development. Although the global health crisis has sometimes been used as a pretext for violating human rights, it has also made it possible to show the universality and interdependence of such rights. The right to reliable and pluralistic information has thus emerged as an indispensable public good for effective and fair treatment of the crisis. The heavy toll paid by populations who are the most vulnerable due to poverty or who suffer discrimination also underlines all that remains to be done to ensure full respect for fundamental rights, including equal access to health, the right to decent housing, the right to a decent standard of living, and every person’s right to social security. France’s development cooperation policy aims to address these issues.

Defending human-rights based development

The Human Rights and Development Strategy establishes a new method so that our international solidarity actions fully contribute to respect human rights and are resolutely more sustainable. France’s conception of development is built on the idea that while the fulfilment of human rights is the common ideal to be attained, it is also a means to achieve sustainable development. Development creates the conditions for the enjoyment of human rights for all, and respect for human rights contributes to a development that is truly sustainable. Therefore, it is important to further develop France’s approach and design development programs that are no longer just focused on solidarity-based action but that can also be used as tools to implement states’ international human rights obligations. To achieve this objective, France has focused on two aspects: ensuring that none of the projects and programmes which it finances violate human rights and that throughout all sectors, they aim to produce the maximum amount of positive effects to fulfil human rights.

An action plan to implement our 2024 commitments

For directly operational purposes, this strategy was drafted as the result of a multi-stakeholder dialogue and is translated into a plan of action, adopted in 2020, that sets out the measures to be taken to fulfill France’s commitments by setting objectives for 2024.

It covers France’s vision of the human rights-based approach and the strategic priorities that will underpin its implementation, with actions regarding the integration of the human rights-based approach by the State and its operators, including the training of agents, the revision of operational procedures, advocacy and partnerships with research. It also defines the cooperation actions to be carried out by France regarding the identified priorities:

  • human rights education, particularly for children;
  • supporting development actors in implementing a human rights-based approach;
  • supporting human rights defenders in the face of growing restrictions on the space dedicated to civil society;
  • promoting access to law and justice;
  • and supporting the implementation of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and other similar regional mechanisms.

The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs will launch a major staff training campaign so that they can adapt their working methods to this new development approach. With the French Development Agency and the embassies, it supports programmes for accessing the law and justice in France’s partner countries, and new projects to promote human rights education will be initiated. In addition to financial support for programmes led by civil society organizations, a specific fund for protecting threatened or endangered human rights defenders around the world will be created. In collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, France is also supporting partner countries so that they effectively implement the recommendations drawn under the UPR.