The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is the founding document on human rights. The preamble to the UDHR says that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’. Human rights are therefore universal. Some Christians say that it is because all humans are made in the image of God and are therefore of equal worth with equal rights.
Human rights can be used as a basis for development by calling for existing resources to be shared more equally, and assisting people living in poverty to assert their rights to those resources. This contrasts with using human needs as a basis for development, which focuses on securing additional resources for delivery of services to people living in poverty.
A rights-based approach is explicitly political and based on legal/ethical obligations, whereas a needs-based approach is motivated by charitable intentions. Many organisations may be doing rights-based advocacy without realising it or calling it that.
Human rights can be used in individual cases of human rights abuses, in collective actions, and as the underpinning basis for any advocacy project or programme. The human rights frameworks can be used in advocacy, according to the level at which advocacy is taking place.
A human rights resource for grassroots development workers
See also our Advocacy toolkit, section G4 Advocacy Cycle Stage 4: Taking action – Using human rights (PDF 936 KB)