Re-interpreting the rights-based approach - a grassroots perspective on rights and development

Reports/papers (non-specific)
PDF (389.92 KB)
Published: June 2005
Product code:G00482

The traditional rights-based approach places responsibility and obligation on the state, with little room for community participation and community-driven alternatives. In the Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI)(an international group of grassroots organisations and their support NGOs seeking pro-poor development-notably secure tenure, basic services and housing) model organisations of the poor have to be built and their capacity strenghtened, so that they can negotiate their entitlements with the local, state and national authorities. ~Communities of the poor play a central role in the organisation and delivery of services for the poor, rather than leaving them to the exclusive domain of the state. It is anticipated that under these conditions, the poor will experience a more supportive and less descriminatory context, and will be able to take advantage of new opportunities. ~
Despite this emphasis SDI have struggled to work within the rights-based approach and have been criticised by rights-based groups for being too 'close to the state'. ~
This paper discusses the reasons for these tensions, particularly focusing on 1. womens' organisations (savings schemes) who don't believe that an openly aggressive campaign against the state is likely to be a successful strategy given the imbalance of power, and 2. the women believe there's no simple answer to their needs for secure tenure and basic services that will be brought about by advocacy alone, rather that new alternatives which seek to build an active role for community groups have to be developed and that involves collaboration with the relevant ministries.

Cite this publication

Mitlin, D. and Patel, S. (2005). Re-interpreting the rights-based approach - a grassroots perspective on rights and development. .
Available at