Global Policy Forum

Accountability and Human Rights Post 2015

In a Who_Is_Accountablejoint report, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Center for Economic and Social Rights emphasize the role played by accountability measures in the post-2015 development vision. They point out that a major deficiency of the Millennium Development Goals has been a lack of accountability. To address this concern, the report makes several recommendations intended to strengthen both national and international accountability mechanisms, to empower those who are most vulnerable, and to streamline a human rights approach into the post-2015 development debate.

UNOHCR, Center for Economic and Social Rights, May 2013

Who will be Accountable? Human Rights and the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Download pdf

Executive Summary

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) embodied an unprecedented international consensus on poverty reduction as a shared global enterprise, framed around a limited set of commitments for which both developed and developing countries could be held to account. Their breadth of scope was intended to foster understanding of poverty as a multidimensional problem; their selectivity, as an aid to prioritizing efforts and resources. By setting quantifi able, time-bound targets around a range of indicators, they instilled a shared sense of urgency, as well as providing a statistical basis for reliable tracking of progress across countries. As a consensually adopted statement of intent by the world´s leaders to be held responsible— to each other and to those they govern— for meeting a limited set of monitorable commitments, the Goals held promise as an instrument of accountability and an incentive to action. The Goals have undoubtedly had a very significant impact upon the international development discourse. Their political currency in countries across the globe may also have played a role in shaping national development policies and bolstering international aid flows. However, the experience of the past 12 years indicates that their pledge of accountability has been more rhetorical than real. [...]

“Accountability” is a cornerstone of the human rights framework. The latter is essentially a system of norms and practices that govern the relationship between the individual and the State or those in authority. Human rights standards set out the rights and freedoms to which all are entitled by virtue of being human, and the corresponding duties of those who exercise authority or forms of power. Accountability from a human rights perspective refers to the relationship of Government policymakers and other duty bearers to the rights holders affected by their decisions and actions. Accountability has a corrective function, making it possible to address individual or collective grievances, and sanction wrongdoing by the individuals and institutions responsible. However, accountability also has a preventive function, helping to determine which aspects of policy or service delivery are working, so they can be built on, and which aspects need to be adjusted. Accountability principles and mechanisms can improve policymaking by identifying systemic failures that need to be overcome in order to make service delivery systems more effective and responsive. Although central to human rights practice, accountability has long been a prime concern in development, governance, politics, law, ethics, business and activism. While the meanings and functions of accountability differ across disciplines, in most public policy contexts, accountability refers to the obligation of those in authority to take responsibility for their actions, to answer for them by explaining and justifying them to those affected, and to be subject to some form of enforceable sanction if their conduct or explanation for it is found wanting. Much of the literature on accountability in development converges around these three constituent elements: responsibility, answerability and enforceability. [...]

An ambitious new global deal is needed in the year 2015, grounded in the principles of human rights, equality and sustainability. Its ultimate objective should be to realize the international human rights commitments of United Nations Member States, building upon the important human rights agreements in the outcome documents of the 2010 High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals and the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”).6 If accountability and human rights are central to the next generation of development goals, it is more likely that the current set of weak political commitments can be transformed after 2015 into a more robust global social contract. [...]

Who will be Accountable? Human Rights and the Post-2015 Development Agenda


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.