Taking a human rights based approach

A Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) is a way of empowering people to know and claim their rights, and increases the ability and accountability of individuals and institutions who are responsible for respecting, protecting and fulfilling rights. This means giving people greater opportunities to participate in shaping the decisions that impact on their human rights. It also means increasing the ability of those with responsibility for fulfilling rights to recognise and respect human rights. Using a human rights based approach which is integrated into policy-making, as well as the day to day running of organisations, ensures that standards are met for everyone.

The principles of a Human Rights Based Approach: the PANEL Principles

There are some underlying principles which are important in applying a HRBA in practice, known as the PANEL Principles:


Everyone has the right to participate in decisions which affect their human rights. Participation must be active, free, meaningful and give attention to issues of accessibility, including access to information in a form and a language which can be understood.


Accountability requires effective monitoring of human rights standards as well as effective remedies for human rights breaches. For accountability to be effective there must be appropriate laws, policies, institutions, administrative procedures and mechanisms of redress in order to secure human rights.

Non-discrimination and equality

A HRBA means that all forms of discrimination (such as age, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity) in the realisation of rights must be prohibited, prevented and eliminated. It also requires the prioritisation of those in the most marginalised or vulnerable situations who face the biggest barriers to realising their rights.

Empowerment of rights holders

Individuals and communities should understand their rights, and be fully supported to participate in the development of policy and practices which affect their lives. Individuals and communities should be able to claim their rights where necessary.

Legality of rights

A HRBA requires the recognition of rights as legally enforceable entitlements, and is linked in to national and international human rights law.