Children’s Rights-Based Approach to Research

The term ‘rights-based’ is used broadly to describe work influenced by the international human rights standards. These standards are in effect a legal articulation of a broader philosophical perspective embedded within human rights discourse. What distinguishes human rights discourse from other moral discourses is that it, as Michael Freeman suggests, ‘draws our attention to the persons who have rightful entitlements’ and places concomitant obligations on the duty-bearer, the state, to respect the right-holders’ enjoyment of their rights, to protect against deprivation and to aid those whose rights have been violated. 

These concepts underpin the United Nations’ definition of a ‘human rights-based approach’ as articulated in its ‘Statement of Common Understanding’. The Statement outlines three core principles which should guide a human rights-based approach (HRBA), summarized as follows:

  • activity should further the realization of human rights;
  • human rights standards should guide all phases of activity;
  • activity should contribute to the development of the capacities of duty-bearers to meet their obligations and of rights-holders to claim their rights.

While this document set out to clarify what a HRBA meant in the context of development cooperation and development programming by UN agencies, its core principles have been deemed essential characteristics of human rights-based approaches more generally and have since been adopted as guiding principles for HRBAs by UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.

The children’s rights-based approach to research employed in the Centre for Children’s Rights is based on an application of HRBA principles to research with children The approach has implications for all stages of the research process:

  • research aims should be informed by the CRC standards,
  • research process should comply with the CRC standards; and
  • research outcomes should build the capacity of children, as rights-holders, to claim their rights and build the capacity of duty-bearers to fulfil their obligations.

Cutting across all of this is a requirement to ensure that the process furthers the realisation of children’s rights.