Measurement & Human Rights



Background Note






Carr Center > Measurement & Human Rights > Projects > R2development






Harvard School of Public Health


Harvard Kennedy School
Carr Center for Human Rights Policy


Expert meeting
on Methodological Issues of Qualitative
and Quantitative Tools for Measuring Compliance with
the Right to Development


27-28 January 2009
Harvard Kennedy School, Malkin Penthouse, 4th floor, Littauer Center Building


Background note







1. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in cooperation with The Measurement and Human Rights Program of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Program on Human Rights in Development at the Harvard School of Public Health is convening an expert meeting on progressive development and refinement of the right to development criteria. The meeting of experts in qualitative and quantitative evaluation of development activities will function as an independent expert consultation under the responsibility of the host institution and OHCHR, facilitated by interested international institutions. The final product will involve a publication and eventual submission to the highest human rights policy organs of the United Nations; the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. This document explains the background of the exercise.

Mandate of the high-level task force on the implementation of the right to development


2. The UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR, which was replaced by the UN Human Rights Council since June 2006) entrusted its Working Group on the Right to Development (Working Group) with monitoring and reviewing progress in the promotion and implementation of the right to development (CHR resolution 1998/72). The Working Group, in turn, created a High Level Task Force on the Implementation of the Right to Development (Task Force), and requested it to examine MDG 8, on global partnership for development, and suggest criteria for its periodic evaluation with the aim of improving the effectiveness of global partnerships with regard to the realization of the right to development (CHR res. 2005/4).


3. The Working Group agreed to the criteria developed by the Task Force (ref. E/CN.4/2006/26) and requested the Task Force to apply them to development partnerships such as the African Peer Review Mechanism, the ECA/OECD DAC Mutual Review of Development Effectiveness, the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Cotonou Agreement between African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and the European Union.


4. Throughout the deliberations of the Task Force and the Working Group, experts and delegates stressed the importance of developing methodologically rigorous criteria, sub-criteria, checklists, indicators, and other tools of evaluating partnership. At its January 2008 session, the Task Force observed that “[I]n order to achieve the desired level of quality, the task force considers that the criteria must (a) become analytically and methodologically rigorous; (b) provide empirically-oriented tools to those involved in implementing development partnerships that can improve the outcomes of their work in light of their respective mandates; (c) integrate analytical work done by expert groups within World Bank, OECD, UNDP, UNCTAD, UNICEF, UNESCO, DESA, OHCHR, and others, as well as academic research centres, and (d) provide guidance so that global partnerships for development are enabled to respond better to the broader objectives of the right to development.”


5. At its ninth session in August 2008, the Working Group recommended that the Task Force “give priority to improving the criteria in the light of the lessons learned from their application and taking into account the [1986] Declaration on the Right to Development and other relevant international instruments as well as the views expressed by States at the current session, with a view to submitting, …, a revised list of criteria that serve the purposes set out in all relevant provisions of [Human Rights] Council resolution 4/4.” (ref. A/HRC/9/17).


6. The Working Group also requested the Task Force to draw on the necessary expertise to (a) make the criteria analytically and methodologically rigorous; (b) provide empirically-oriented tools to those involved in implementing development partnerships; and (c) ensure that they cover Millennium Development Goal 8, including target 8.A and other aspects not covered to date by the task force.”


Purpose of the Consultation


7. The consultation is aimed at facilitating the implementation of the mandate of the Task Force as explained above. It will provide an opportunity to facilitate expert assessments of the current criteria used by the Task Force (see Annex) and revise them with the view to making them operational and reflective of standards of qualitative and quantitative evaluation used in international institutions and recognized by the leading social scientists. The consultation will not be bound by the choice of language and implied indicators of the current criteria but will keep the objectives of the mandate of the Task Force in mind while proposing a more rigorous approach than that reflected in the current set of criteria. The consultation will draw attention to what can be accomplished with methodological rigor, notwithstanding the extremely broad range of issues covered by the right to development and the complexities of the partnerships the Task Force is called upon to evaluate in light of MDG 8.


8. The consultation will not seek to define an exhaustive set of indicators and methods of evaluation of all aspects of the right to development relevant to each partnership but will rather seek to propose a practical approach to periodic evaluation of partnership and a reasonable set of measurable criteria. It will critically examine the current criteria and – leaving political considerations aside – advise as to what criteria can be meaningfully applied, what existing indicators would be relevant, what experience could be drawn upon to understand the strengths and weaknesses of evaluating the sorts of issues covered in the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development, and the steps that should be taken to make the evaluation periodic and thus provide meaningful data over time.


9. Specifically, the issues which will be addressed in the consultation are:

  • a) Clarification of the meaning of the right to development for the purposes of periodic evaluation;
  • b) Clarification of the partnerships to be evaluated under MDG 8;
  • c) Lessons learned from other efforts to introduce human rights consideration into the qualitative and quantitative assessment of development policies, programmes and projects;
  • d) Critical review and suggestions for the refinement of the current criteria proposed by the TF;
  • e) Suggestions for the specific sub-criteria or indicators under each criterion capable of providing tools of measurement of conformity with the right to development;
  • f) Suggestions for the thematic expansion of existing criteria to cover other thematic issues under MDG 8;
  • g) Relation between MDG 8 specific criteria and a “comprehensive and coherent set of guidelines” on implementation of the right to development.


Working Papers and Background documents


10. Mr. Rajeev Malhotra, OHCHR consultant, is expected to provide a presentation for discussion at the meeting. The presentation will critically examine the wording of each criterion and comment briefly on (a) why it is acceptable as is, (b) what is fundamentally wrong with it, or (c) how it could be better if reformulated and what that new formulation should be. The author will also add a list of relevant extant indicators and/or explain what indicator(s) would need to be established and data collected to meaningfully assess the fulfilment of the criterion in question. Following the consultation, the author will be asked to prepare and submit a paper on the topic taking into account the outcome of the discussion. The paper will be shared with the Task Force at its next annual session, scheduled for 1-9 April 2009.


11. In addition to the above-mentioned paper, there will be a compilation of key documents on the right to development of particular relevance to the agenda of the consultation (including the Declaration on the Right to Development and the list of MDG 8 targets), and a bibliography of documents and scholarly publications on the right to development, methodological issues concerning MDGs and indicators and criteria applied to similar evaluation exercises.


12. Finally, a number of relevant documents and publications will be provided to the participants as background. The Task Force will consider at its next meeting the final report of the consultation along with the revised paper mentioned in paragraph 10. The outcome the consultation will be used by the Task Force to develop “a comprehensive and coherent set of guidelines,” as required in the final phase of its work.



Criteria for Periodic Evaluation of Global Development Partnerships from a Right to Development Perspective (as revised by the task force at its fourth session, January 2008)


To facilitate their application, the criteria remain organized in three groups related to development partnerships: structure and institutional framework, process and outcome.


Structure/institutional framework

The extent to which a partnership:

(a) Contributes to creating an enabling environment for sustainable development and the realization of all human rights;

(b) Draws on all relevant international human rights instruments, including those relating to the right to development, in elaborating the content of development strategies and tools for monitoring and evaluating their implementation;

(c) Promotes good governance, democracy and the rule of law and effective anticorruption measures at the national and international levels;

(d) Follows a human rights-based approach to development, and integrates the principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation, transparency, and accountability in its development strategies;

(e) Establishes priorities that are responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized segments of the population, with positive measures to realize their human rights;

(f) Recognizes mutual and reciprocal responsibilities among the partners, taking into account their respective capacities and resources and the special vulnerability of Least Developed Countries;

(g) Ensures that human rights obligations are respected in all aspects of the relationship between the partners, through harmonization of policies;


The extent to which a partnership:


  • (h) Ensures that adequate information is freely available to enable effective public scrutiny of its policies, working methods and outcomes;
  • (i) Promotes gender equality and the rights of women;
  • (j) Provides for the meaningful consultation and participation of all stakeholders, including affected populations and their representatives, as well as relevant civil society groups and experts, in processes of elaborating, implementing and evaluating development policies, programmes and projects;
  • (k) Respects the right of each State to determine its own development policies in accordance with international law, and the role of national parliaments to review and approve such policies.
  • (l) Includes fair institutionalized mechanisms of mutual accountability and review, through which the fulfilment by all partners of their agreed commitments is monitored and publicly reported, responsibility for action is indicated, and effective remedies are provided;
  • (m) Monitors and evaluates progress in achieving development strategies by carrying out systematic assessments of the human rights impact of its policies and projects based on appropriate indicators and contributes to strengthening the capacity to collect and disseminate timely data, which should be disaggregated sufficiently to monitor the impacts on vulnerable population groups and the poor;



The extent to which a partnership:

  • (n) Ensures that developing countries, through their own efforts and through international assistance and cooperation, have the human and financial resources to implement successfully development strategies based on these criteria;
  • (o) Establishes, as needed, safety nets, to provide for the needs of vulnerable populations in time of natural, financial or other crisis;
  • (p) Achieves the constant improvement of the wellbeing of populations and all individuals, on the basis of their active, free, and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of the benefits, in accordance with article 2, paragraph 3, of the Declaration on the Right to Development;
  • (q) Contributes to development that is sustainable and equitable, with a view to ensuring continually increasing opportunities for all and a fair distribution of resources.