Human Rights

We undertake research on human rights, in areas including disability, land reforms, modern slavery, sexuality, social protection and economic empowerment. Engaging with policymakers, advocacy organisations and donors on key issues, we take a rights-based approach to development programmes.

Human rights are increasingly important on the international development agenda. Rights-based projects and programmes are promoted and implemented across the world by donors, NGOs, academics and activists. Rights-based approaches to development have emerged out of several streams of thinking - out the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which marks its 70th anniversay in 2017; from a range of social, cultural and political struggles in both North and South; and a historical evolution from people seen as beneficiaries to being citizens. In practice, rights based approaches, whether employed by advocates or international agencies, are often based on a blend of all three of these.

Human rights are more meaningful and sustainable when they are claimed from the bottom up by people who live daily realities of poverty and inequality. Rights are not just an approach for development, they can be a real way for people to challenge power and structural inequalities. When people mobilise and struggle to gain their rights it may lead to better access to resources such as land, health, housing and water. Legal frameworks are important but many governments often violate people's rights as well as protect them. Many people use direct action strategies such as protesting and working with the media to draw attention to their rights.

IDS staff or research student More details

Photo of Anuradha Joshi, IDS researcher More details

Photo of Carlos Fortin More details

Photo of Cathérine Müller, Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction research team More details

Photo of Deepta Chopra, IDS Governance and Gender / Sexuality Research Fellow More details

Photo of Deepta Chopra, IDS Governance and Gender / Sexuality Research Fellow More details

Photo of Hani Morsi More details

Jody Harris photo More details

IDS staff or research student More details

More details

Photo of IDS researcher, Mariz Tadros More details

Mary Wickenden More details

Photo of Naomi Hossain, IDS Research Fellow More details

Photo of Pauline Oosterhoff, Research Fellow, Participation Power and Social Change More details

IDS staff or research student More details

Richard Crook is a Professorial Fellow with the Governance Team, IDS. More details

Photo of Rosalind Eyben More details

photo of Shilpi Srivastava More details

Photo of Sohela Nazneen More details

Bridging the Gap Evaluation

This is a mid-term evaluation of the Bridging the Gaps Programme a global program operating in 16 countries across all the main key populations at-risk for HIV. More details

Community Based Peace Processes in Myanmar

Since 2013 Danny Burns has been working with Stephen Gray and Josephine Roos on systemic approaches to peace in Northern Myanmar. The work is rooted in community perspectives on the issues that face local people in Kachin and Northern Shan State. More details

Engendering Men: Evidence on Routes to Change for Gender Equality (EMERGE)

Our goal is to enable stronger leadership for working with boys and men to promote gender equality. We will do this by gathering, inter-relating and analysing evidence and lessons. These will be strategically disseminated in targeted and accessible formats for improved learning, policy and practice. More details

Final External Review of the Cross-Cutting Disability Research Programme

This independent external review aimed to determine the extent to which the three year Cross-Cutting Disability Research Programme (CCDRP) in Nepal, India, Zambia, Uganda, and Kenya, has met its expected impact, outcome and outputs. More details

Masculinities and Transition

The project will explore the experiences of men and shifting constructions of masculinities in current ‘transition countries’ More details

Participation and Gender Justice: Political Empowerment

This project is part of the Gender, Power and Sexuality Programme, funded by Sida. The project is working on two parallel initiatives, firstly, exploring political empowerment programmes for women and secondly, engaging with the international community to challenge and expose gendered forms of violence, particularly when this is politically motivated. More details

Pilot Study to Estimate the Extent of Child Soldiering, Child Labour, Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in South Sudan, DRC and Nigeria

This pilot study, funded by ILO, IOM, UNICEF and Walk Free Foundation, aims to estimate the extent of child soldiering and forced labour, human trafficking, and modern slavery in contexts of armed conflict in South Sudan, DRC and Nigeria. More details

Sexuality and Local Voices

The Sexuality and Development project is one of the workstreams of the Gender, Power and Sexuality (GPS) Programme, funded by Sida. More details

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre

The STEPS Centre is an interdisciplinary global research and policy engagement hub, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. It aims to develop a new approach to understanding, action and communication on sustainability and development. More details

The 'Right to Nutrition' in its Social, Legal and Political Context: A Scoping Study in Two Low-Income Countries

A ‘right to nutrition’ has been suggested as a normative concept that might increase the impact of nutrition policy and action. This research will start to explore the views of those working for improved nutrition, and their understanding of - or desire for - a right to nutrition approach to address the intractable issue of malnutrition and its social determinants. More details

View all Research Theme's publications

Use this search to display this theme's publications and filter by journal, author, country and much more.


Front cover of IDS Bulletin 41.5, 'Quotas: Add Women and Stir'

Quotas: A highway to Power in Egypt...But for Which Women?

IDS Bulletin 41.5 (2010)

Thisarticle speculates on whether the quota for women in the Egypt parliament will challenge power hierarchies within and among parties. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Why Care? Children's Rights and Child Poverty

This book is a collaborative project of Centrum OASeS and the UNICEF Chair in Children's Rights, both located at the University of Antwerp. The UNICEF Chair in Children's Rights is a joint initiative of UNICEF Belgium and the University of Antwerp, Faculty of Law. The Chair was established in 2007. It acts as a knowledge broker of children's rights within the academic community and between the academic community and policy and practice, through teaching, research and service to the community. More details

Non-IDS publication

Egypt Country Report

This chapter in the 2010 Freedom House Report on Women's rights in the Middle East and North Africa details the situation of women in Egypt. More details

Non-IDS publication

Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa

This study, conducted by Freedom House provides a detailed look at the conditions faced by women in the Middle East and an understanding of the complex environment surrounding efforts to improve their status. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Mobilization through Litigation: Claiming Health Rights on Asbestos Issues in South Africa

Debates over social movements have suffered from a predominate focus on North America and western Europe, often neglecting the significance of collective action in the global South. Citizenship and Social Movements seeks to partially redress this imbalance with case studies from Brazil, India, Bangladesh, Mexico, South Africa and Nigeria. More details

IDS publications on international development research

What Is Happening to Donor Support for Women's Rights?

Contestations 4 (2010)

This article deals examinse the recent trend that human rights, including women's rights are dropping off the donor agenda. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Realising protection: the uncertain benefits of civilian, refugee and IDP status

HPG Report 28 (2009)

Protecting civilians from the worst effects of violent conflict, human rights abuses and persecution lies at the heart of the humanitarian agenda. Central to this is the attempt to secure respect for the protected status conferred on civilians and displaced people by international law and custom. More details

IDS Working Paper

Democratising Trade Politics in the Americas: Insights from the Women's, Environmental and Labour Movements

IDS Working Paper 328 (2009)

This paper explores the extent to which and the ways in which civil society groups are contributing to the democratisation of trade policy and politics in the Americas. It explores the strategies adopted by a range of NGOs and social movements to influence the decision-making processes and the content of the trade agenda. More details

IDS Working Paper

Transnational Agrarian Movements Struggling for Land and Citizenship Rights

IDS Working Paper 323 (2009)

Rural citizens have increasingly begun to invoke perceived citizenship rights at transnational level, such that rural citizen engagements today have the potential to generate new meanings of global citizenship. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Islam and Feminism: Islam through Safe Feminism?

Contestations: Dialogues on Womens Empowerment 6.1 (2009)

Orientalist discourses may be ripe, but in many contexts, feminists are also practicing self-censorship where critiques of the religious in the political are concerned, out of fear of being hounded upon as being traitors. More details