Human rights

A life in dignity for every human being

Human rights are the universal foundation for a life in dignity and freedom. Denial of human rights, such as the lack of access to resources, education or justice, is often the cause of or closely connected to poverty, conflicts and violent escalations impeding development.

On behalf of the Federal Government we therefore support national and regional human rights institutions, such as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and partner government institutions in meeting their human rights obligations, for example the right to education. At the same time, we support civil society actors in claiming their rights and holding governments accountable. In addition we also promote human rights standards and principles in all sectors e.g. water and health and GIZ programs.

The aim of our work is to foster social and institutional framework conditions that enable people to realise their rights and live in dignity. In doing so, we particularly focus on those groups most vulnerable to human rights violations, such as indigenous peoples, women, children and persons with disabilities.

A conducive family, social and political environment is of crucial importance for young people to realise their rights. In Burkina Faso, for example, GIZ is implementing a programme to combat child labour and trafficking in children and to promote sexual and reproductive health among young people.

More about human rights


The rights of children and young people

Children and young people up to the age of 24 make up the majority of the population in almost all developing countries. By ratifying the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Germany and almost all its partner countries have pledged to create enabling frameworks to protect children and young people, and foster their development and participation.

The fact that development status is affected by age, and the resulting dependency on family, social and political structures, make it imperative to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of children and youth. Nevertheless, many countries lack the social and institutional frameworks needed to achieve this. Many girls and boys are at the mercy of violence, abuse and exploitation, or have inadequate access to social or health services. Rigid hierarchies between the genders and between generations mean that young people are often marginalised within their societies, and are left unable to effectively organise, participate and demand their rights.

On the basis of Germany’s human rights obligations, GIZ makes a key contribution toward improving the human rights situation, and thus the lives, of children and young people. We support our partner countries in

  • orienting legal frameworks toward children and youth, and the protection of their rights
  • building credible and sustainable structures at the national and local levels to protect children and young people, and foster their participation
  • promoting dialogue and cooperation between state and non-governmental actors, and training these actors for their activities.

Official German development cooperation sees children and young people as subjects of specific rights. Only when their rights are enshrined, protected and fulfilled in law will they be able to unfold their potential and make effective contributions to social development processes.


The rights of indigenous peoples

On all continents, indigenous peoples are among the groups that suffer the worst discrimination. Their living space is gradually being encroached upon, for instance, to make way for the extraction of raw materials. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of 2007 is the framework of reference for German development policy. This Declaration contains extensive collective rights such as the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination. It also provides legal protection for their territories (including not only their lands but also their resources), and the unrestricted use of these.

GIZ has long been supporting governments in meeting their obligations toward indigenous peoples, particularly in Latin America. This has included, for instance, recognising and promoting the sustainable management of indigenous territories in Brazil, and establishing bilingual intercultural education systems in the Andean region and Guatemala.

In the Andean countries, Paraguay and Guatemala, for example, the regional programme PROINDIGENA is supporting indigenous organisations at various levels, and promoting dialogue and negotiation between indigenous peoples and the states concerned. In Africa and Asia, where many governments have not yet sufficiently acknowledged the existence and the rights of indigenous peoples, or even acknowledged them at all, GIZ is implementing poverty reduction programmes. These include a programme to support Adivasi in India.

We also promote respect for the rights of indigenous peoples when implementing the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as tropical forest programmes at the regional and country level. GIZ is currently involved in implementing measures of this kind in the Congo Basin and South-East Asia.


Women’s Rights

The everyday life of many women is characterised by gender-based discrimination and disadvantages, power imbalances and socio-culturally defined roles that prevent them from developing and exercising their rights.

We support our partner countries in their efforts to anchor international agreements, including the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), in their national legislation and policy directives, as well as to implementthem. Our actions are always based on the following human rights principles:

  • Non-discrimination: We advise our partners on legal reforms, ways of eliminating discrimination in their legal systems, and on how to implement laws that improve women’s access to justice..
    We advocate the reduction of the structural causes of gender-based violence. We promote coordinated action on the part of state and non-governmental actors in the fight against gender-based discrimination and violence.
  • Transparency: We help to ensure that women know about and are familiarized with their rights.
  • Equal opportunities: We support reforms in economic policy at national and international levels, and advise our partners on how to reduce gender-specific barriers, so that women’s access to land, the labour market, financial markets and product markets is improved.
  • Participation and empowerment: We promote the political participation of women and hone their leadership skills. Women and men alike should be able to represent their own interests and participate in decision-making in their respective municipalities, and also at a local and national level.

Inclusion of persons with disabilities

More than 1 billion people, some 15 per cent of the world’s population, are living with some form of disability. Between 110 and 190 million people have severe impairments; 80 per cent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries. In situations where living conditions are conducive to the emergence of disability, and disability limits people’s opportunities to make a living for themselves, disability is both a cause and a result of poverty. It is not uncommon for persons with disabilities to be denied their right to basic education. This leaves them without the tools they need to receive a full education, generate income and lead self-determined lives. This leads to a continuous cycle in which poverty is reproduced.

According to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, disability results from an interaction between persons with impairments, and barriers they encounter in their environment. The Convention thus reflects a paradigm shift away from a medical understanding of disability to a human rights-based understanding.

The Convention obliges the States Parties to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in international cooperation. The BMZ Action Plan for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities clearly mandates all German actors to include persons with disabilities in all areas of their work.

Both strategically and in practical ways, GIZ has been working to fulfil the rights of persons with disabilities for years. In developing countries and emerging economies, we advise on the design of inclusive policies and measures that place greater emphasis on the rights and needs of persons with disabilities.

Examples of our work


children’s and adolescents’ rights

In several of our partner countries  children and adolescents account for more than half of the population. Yet children and adolescents are also disproportionately affected by violence, exploitation and poverty ...

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Dr. Elisabeth Leiss

Advisory and service portfolio

Here you will find an overview of the technical and methodological services we offer.


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