Basic needs and human rights

1. Rights vs. Needs

What is the difference between the basic needs and human rights approach to development?  What are the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches?

2. Human Rights Indicators

What are human rights indicators?  Why are they significant?


2014 \”Human Rights Indicators – Rationale and Some Concerns\”

United Nations \”The Human Rights-Based Approach\”


\”The Core International Human Rights Instruments and their Monitoring Bodies\”


Prudence and principle in international society: reflections on Vincent\’s approach to human rights



  1. Basic needs and human rights

Development is a diverse process intended to bring social change to people thus enabling them reach optimal human potential. However, there are different approaches to development including the basic needs approach and the human rights approach. This creates a need to differentiate between the two approaches and their individual strengths and weaknesses.

The basic needs approach

This approach to development is geared towards prioritizing the achievement of basic needs (Franczak, 2018). The fundamental needs vary where some only consider nutrition, education, shelter and health while others include employment and political freedom. This approach emanates from the view that development should first consider eliminating absolute deprivation.


The approach recognizes human basic needs and puts work towards meeting people’s basic needs (Franczak, 2018). It also focuses on solving the immediate causes of problems that affect the people’s ability to meet basic needs.


While this approach emphasizes on alleviating poverty, it is based on increased consumption. The approach emphasizes on actions aimed at the outcome thus, recognizes the acceptance of charity as a driving force towards meeting the basic needs (Franczak, 2018). It also trivializes poverty alleviation by not empowering the people and ignoring the social context.

Human Rights approach

This approach focuses on the promotion, achievement and protection of human rights in accordance with the international human rights standards (UNSDG, 2021). Utilizing this approach requires recognition that human rights are obligations requiring capacity building of the right holders and the duty bearers. Additionally, this approach is based on the human rights principles of equality, accountability, participation, universality, indivisibility and non- discrimination.


This approach emphasizes on meeting rights through empowerment (UNSDG, 2021). It focuses on meeting obligations through holistic programs that cover the social, political, economic and cultural aspects involved and which are guided by policies.


Depending on the approaches implementation, it may involve legal battles between duty bearers and right holders (UNSDG, 2021). This creates opposition mostly between governments and the people thus being ineffective in achieving development.

  1. Human Rights Indicators

Human rights are obligations belonging to all people protecting them of actions that interfere with human dignity or with their freedom (OHCHR, 2021). Due to their characteristics, human rights require a measurement guide; thus the human rights indicators. Such guides contain information on standards, norms and activities related to human rights for possible use in implementation, assessment and monitoring of human rights. Indicators can be quantitative or qualitative, fact based or subjective based, performance oriented or compliance. They are designed to promote, measure or promote the realization of human rights.


Measuring, monitoring and assessment are crucial processes that enable quality improvement, effective implementation and problem solving. Therefore, human rights indicators are essential to the effective implementation and realization of rights with their importance having been recognized in human rights treaties (OHCHR, 2021). As such, they are practical tools that help in implementing and assessing human rights. With the many demonstrations and human rights violations, there is need for human rights enforcements. Indicators serve to help identify the impact and effectiveness of human rights activities, outcomes, events or actions.

Qualitative indicators offer evidence-based information while quantitative indicators offer statistics and empirical data on human rights (OHCHR, 2021). This enhances accountability as it connects obligations and enables diagnostic and enforcement measures on human rights activities. When used appropriately, indicators help governments put up clear information regarding the state of human rights in their area. This makes it possible for the state to assess their progress, allow solid follow up, and recommendations to ensure people enjoy human rights.


Franczak, M. (2018). Human rights and basic needs: Jimmy Carter’s North-South dialogue, 1977–81. Cold War History18(4), 447-464.

OHCHR. (2021). Human Rights and Indicators: Rationale and some Concerns. Retrieved from:

UNSDG. (2021). Universal Values. Human Rights-Based Approach. Retrieved from:

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