Human rights based approach and children and youth rights in development cooperation

Project description

Title: Realising human rights including children and youth rights in development cooperation
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Global
Overall term: 2017 to 2020



Having ratified the core international human rights treaties, Germany and its partner countries have committed themselves to respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights. The actual situation in many developing countries, however, is characterised by serious human rights abuses in the political, civic, economic, social and cultural spheres. The scope for civil society has been significantly reduced, and many social groups continue to be affected by largescale discrimination and human rights violations. The rights of children and young people, who often make up as much as 70 per cent of the population of developing countries, are frequently violated. Extreme poverty, lack of nutrition, lack of educational opportunities, violence and exploitation are part of the everyday life of millions of children and adolescents, who often go on to suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives. But young people are key players, who should instead be specially supported as the motors for societies’ development.

Human rights describe the universal minimum basis for a life lived in dignity, equality and freedom. As such, they are also a precondition for sustainable development. This is why the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasises the need to overcome inequality and discrimination, and supports disadvantaged people and groups in exercising their rights, in the spirit of its motto: ‘Leave no one behind’.

The human rights strategy adopted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in 2011 underscores the significance of human rights as a guiding principle and cross-cutting issue in German development policy. In addition, the action plan adopted in 2017, ‘Agents of Change - Children and Youth Rights in German Development Cooperation’, calls for greater support for the rights of young people. Only by improving the human rights situation will it be possible to overcome poverty and violent conflicts around the world.


BMZ and its implementing organisations base their development activities on human rights standards and principles.



The programme promotes empowerment and equal opportunities for marginalised populations and people suffering discrimination, particularly children and young people, and it commits German development cooperation to the central tenet of ‘leaving no one behind’ in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Through the programme, GIZ is supporting BMZ in establishing a human rights and children's rights-based approaches in its sectoral and country strategies, and it provides advice on priority topics for development, such as the observance of human rights in the private sector. It also advises the ministry on its international positioning with respect to human rights and especially the rights of children and youth, for example in relation to human rights-based approaches in EU development policy and in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

For a wider uptake of the human rights-based approach, the programme is working to enhance the exchange of lessons learned and good practices between BMZ and the German implementing organisations, including GIZ, KfW Development Bank, the National Metrology Institute of Germany and the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, as well as various non-state actors.

The programme will work together with bilateral projects and civil society organisations to develop and test innovative approaches to BMZ’s future issues and guiding topics, such as the economy and human rights, digital change, human rights and climate justice, and the Agenda 2030 wish to leave no one behind. The aim is to provide a stimulus for future developments in German development policy.

For many years, the programme has collaborated closely with the German Institute for Human Rights. As part of this cooperation, the institute has set up a comprehensive website with informative on human rights in development cooperation.



Human rights are increasingly a topic of discussion in policy dialogues with the partner countries of German development cooperation. They are now integrated as a crosscutting issue in all of BMZ’s major strategies, which makes them binding guidelines for German development cooperation. An increasing number of projects and programmes systematically align their activities with human rights standards and principles, and there are more and more projects promoting marginalised groups in the water, health and education sectors, as well as in economic development and good governance.

In recent years, the number of specific development projects dedicated to strengthening human rights institutions at national and regional levels has increased. Examples include the advisory services to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights and to the Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen (FIO), which GIZ is providing on behalf of BMZ. A project promoting human rights and human rights dialogue in Mauritania has been established as part of BMZ’s strategy to stabilise and encourage development in North Africa and the Middle East.

Since 2005, the programme has done much to increase the knowledge of human rights and build up appropriate implementing capacities in German and European development cooperation. This is particularly true of economic, social and cultural rights, which have now become important tools for many development professionals.

In cooperation with UNICEF and the EU Commission, the programme has built up the expertise for children's and young people's rights among more than 600 key actors. Children's and youth rights have also been mainstreamed into project planning and implementation, on a lasting basis. Also with UNICEF, and with KfW and civil society actors, the programme has published various examples of good practice, a website on children's and youth rights in German development policy, several short films and a list of practical instruments. These products have enhanced the state of knowledge management, which is improving the environment for the implementation of young people’s rights.