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Report No. 223

1.11 Human rights are for everyone, as much for people living in poverty and social isolation as for the rich and educated. International law prohibits discrimination in the enjoyment of human rights on any ground, such as ethnicity, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The term "or other status" is interpreted to include personal circumstances, occupation, lifestyle, sexual orientation and health status. People living with HIV and AIDS, for instance, are entitled to the enjoyment of their fundamental human rights and freedoms without any unjustified restriction.

1.12 Equality also requires that all persons within a society enjoy equal access to the available goods and services that are necessary to fulfill basic human needs. It prohibits discrimination in law or in practice in any field regulated and protected by public authorities. Thus, the principle of non-discrimination applies to all State policies and practices, including those concerning health care, education, access to services, travel regulations, entry requirements and immigration.

1.13 An essential principle of the international human rights framework is that every person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy civil, economic, social, cultural and political development in which human rights and fundamental freedoms can be realized. This means that participation is not simply something desirable from the point of view of ownership and sustainability, but rather a right with profound consequences for the design and implementation of development activities.

It is concerned with access to decision-making, and is critical in the exercise of power. The principles of participation and inclusion mean that all people are entitled to participate in society to the maximum of their potential. This in turn necessitates provision of a supportive environment to enable people to develop and express their full potential and creativity.

1.14 States have the primary responsibility to create the enabling environment in which all people can enjoy their human rights, and have the obligation to ensure that respect for human rights norms and principles is integrated into all levels of governance and policymaking. The principle of accountability is essential for securing an enabling environment for development.

Human rights do not simply define the needs of people, but recognize people as active subjects and claim-holders, thus establishing the duties and obligations of those responsible for ensuring that the needs are met. As a consequence, the identification of duty-holders has to feature as an integral part of programme development.

1.15 Law must protect rights. Any dispute about them is not to be resolved through the exercise of some arbitrary discretion, but through the adjudication by competent, impartial and independent processes. These procedures will ensure full equality and fairness to all parties, and determine the questions in accordance with clear, specific and pre-existing laws, known and openly proclaimed. All persons are equal before the law, and are entitled to equal protection. The rule of law ensures that no one is above the law, and that there will be no impunity for human rights violations.

1.16 From the human development perspective, good governance is democratic governance, meaning:

  • People's rights and fundamental freedoms are respected, allowing them to live with dignity;
  • People have a say in decisions that affect their lives;
  • People can hold decision-makers accountable;
  • Inclusive and fair rules, institutions and practices govern social interactions;
  • Women are equal partners with men in public spheres of life and decision-making;
  • People are free from discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, or any other attribute;
  • The needs of future generations are reflected in current policies;
  • Economic and social policies are responsive to people's needs and aspirations.

1.17 The importance of discrimination in reaching the Millennium Development Goals - based on ethnicity, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status - cannot be overstated. Discrimination is a form of social exclusion, and often a cause of poverty. In extreme cases, discrimination and exclusion may lead to conflict. Systemic discrimination reduces the ability of individuals to benefit from and contribute to human development.

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