NB: the HRBAD website is currently under maintenance (May 2022)

All the documents re. the training sessions organized on the inclusion of a Human Rights based approach in the Belgian Development cooperation framework will be made available at this address in June 2022.

Please stay in touch.

Belgium and a human-rights based approach to development (hrbad) – a policy supporting research project (2020-2021)

For more than 15 years, French- and Flemish-Speaking Universities of Belgium provided expertise and support to the Belgian development policymakers. The latest programme of the kind (PSR – Policy Supporting Research) is funded by ARES-CCD and VLIR-UOS since 2019. In 2020, members of the GRAPAX network, together with new partners from KULeuven, started a new project, under the title « Support to a Belgian Human Rights Based Approach to Development »).

Belgian development cooperation includes a strong engagement towards the promotion of human rights since its major legal reform at the end of the 1990’s. The 25 May 1999 law on international cooperation established, among the classical sectors of intervention (health, agriculture, education, and infrastructure), a 5th sector targeting “conflict prevention and society building, including the support to the respect of human dignity, human rights, and fundamental freedoms” (art. 7).

Today, the Belgian law on development aid (2013) states that it contributes to the general objective of building democracy and rule of law (incl. good governance), and to the objective of respecting human dignity, human rights in every dimension, and fundamental freedoms, with particular consideration to the fight against discrimination (art. 4). It also establishes human rights (incl. child rights) and decent and sustainable work as priority themes (art. 11), and gender (women empowerment and gender equality) as a transversal theme. Several projects and programmes were undertaken in several countries with respect to that broader and more transversal framework, under a human rights label (e.g. gender equality promotion), or under more classical approaches, both via multilateral, governmental, and non-governmental aid.

Following the EU engagement to promote a rights-based approach to development (HRBAD) in the post-2015 agenda, Belgium now seeks to give a more coherent framework to its interventions in this field.

Formally, a HRBAD implies to plan, adopt, implement, and assess development policy integrating the global system of rights and obligations as established by international law, in particular the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related adopted conventions, both focusing on civic and political, and on economic, social and cultural rights.

Multilateral (UN, EU, OCDE, etc.) and other bilateral (Sweden, France, etc.) donors adopted a formal HRBAD framework over the last few years, and recognize the added-value of a specific mainstreaming of the approach. Belgium is willing to draw lessons from those strategies and experiences, while developing its own vision and instruments to mainstream human rights in its development policy.

The PSR research project intends to contribute to this achievement.

Initially programmed until March 2021 (project document here), the project has been extended until December 2021 (extension document here), due to the sanitary crisis.

As planned, the research has been undertaken as a first phase on a mixed-methods approach, in order to define the way Belgian actors understand the notion of a (Human)Rights Based Approach to development:

  • Collection and analysis of relevant literature and policy sources (academic literature and grey literature, i.e institutional documents produced by policy actors.
  • Qualitative semi-structured interviews: 40+ interviews by videoconference, phone or mail have been conducted. In the context of Covid-19 pandemic, workshops and focus groups could not be organized.

An introductory note has been validated by the steering committee and the Minister in Nov. 2020, it is available in EN; a FR version and a NL version are also available with the kind support of Enabel :

A survey has been distributed to a wide range of Belgium Development Stakeholders, in order to identify best practices and lessons learned with respect to HRBAD, whether or not it is labelled so.

Training material has been prepared and tested, both on the field (Kampala, Oct. 2021) and in Brussels (May 2022). Documents will be made available on this website soon.