Human rights are universal and inalienable; indivisible; interdependent and interrelated. They are universal because everyone is born with and possesses the same rights, regardless of where they live, their gender or race, or their religious, cultural or ethnic background. Inalienable because people’s rights can never be taken away. Indivisible and interdependent because all rights – political, civil, social, cultural and economic – are equal in importance and none can be fully enjoyed without the others. They apply to all equally, and all have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. They are upheld by the rule of law and strengthened through legitimate claims for duty-bearers to be accountable to international standards.
Universality and Inalienability: Human rights are universal and inalienable. All people everywhere in the world are entitled to them. The universality of human rights is encompassed in the words of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
Indivisibility: Human rights are indivisible. Whether they relate to civil, cultural, economic, political or social issues, human rights are inherent to the dignity of every human person. Consequently, all human rights have equal status, and cannot be positioned in a hierarchical order. Denial of one right invariably impedes enjoyment of other rights. Thus, the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living cannot be compromised at the expense of other rights, such as the right to health or the right to education.
Interdependence and Interrelatedness: Human rights are interdependent and interrelated. Each one contributes to the realization of a person’s human dignity through the satisfaction of his or her developmental, physical, psychological and spiritual needs. The fulfilment of one right often depends, wholly or in part, upon the fulfilment of others. For instance, fulfilment of the right to health may depend, in certain circumstances, on fulfilment of the right to development, to education or to information.
Equality and Non-discrimination: All individuals are equal as human beings and by virtue of the inherent dignity of each human person. No one, therefore, should suffer discrimination on the basis of race, colour, ethnicity, gender, age, language, sexual orientation, religion, political or other opinion, national, social or geographical origin, disability, property, birth or other status as established by human rights standards.
Participation and Inclusion: All people have the right to participate in and access information relating to the decision-making processes that affect their lives and well-being. Rights-based approaches require a high degree of participation by communities, civil society, minorities, women, young people, indigenous peoples and other identified groups.
Accountability and Rule of Law: States and other duty-bearers are answerable for the observance of human rights. In this regard, they have to comply with the legal norms and standards enshrined in international human rights instruments. Where they fail to do so, aggrieved rights-holders are entitled to institute proceedings for appropriate redress before a competent court or other adjudicator in accordance with the rules and procedures provided by law. Individuals, the media, civil society and the international community play important roles in holding governments accountable for their obligation to uphold human rights.
UNFPA supports the integration of human rights standards into all stages of its programming framework, including:
- Analyzing the immediate, underlying and structural causes of human rights violations
- Setting strategies and goals to address the main causes of human rights violations and to empower the most vulnerable people as well as to reinforce the capacity of duty bearers.
- Supporting initiatives for the establishment or improvement of an enabling legal and social framework on population and development, reproductive health and gender equality
- Following the recommendations of UN treaty bodies such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
- Evaluating and monitoring programmes with participatory processes and using human rights indicators
UNFPA also recognizes that a rights-based approach should be founded on an analysis of gender and social exclusion to ensure that programmes reach marginal and vulnerable segments of the population, especially poor women and young people.