Rights-based development : formal & process approaches in Pakistan
Hood, Shiona Mary
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This thesis examines the ways in which development actors respond to and interpret a Rights-Based Approach (RBA) to development. It draws on a case study undertaken over a period of more than two years in Pakistan. The central research vehicle is a capacity-building process on RBA involving around 300 development professionals. The thesis examines the different responses to and understandings of RBA emerging in the case study, whether there are indications of changes in thinking and practice, and how the analysis fits with existing ideas about rights and development. Analysis draws on an ethnographic perspective and on participant observation, questionnaires, interviews and a range of tools, within the RBA process and from the wider social development field. It is argued that organisations increasingly aim to operationalise RBA through more inclusive, participatory development which enables the claiming of rights and promotes accountability for their fulfilment. One strand of RBA emphasises implementation of a universalising legal framework; another turns to more consciously political processes of struggle for, and institutional responses to, people's claims. The strands reflect a tension that runs through both the fieldwork and examined literature, between formal, centralist, and pluralist, actor-oriented approaches. Adopting one or the other of the two approaches has profound implications for what is 'seen' in development. The thesis shows that, depending on the approach taken, relations in the private sphere are either shut out or exposed, and the operation of power either hidden or revealed. Actors' responses to RBA are absorbed into, and used within, underlying debates on social relations and social and political change. In a Muslim context, responses lead people to confront sacrosanct certainties about human organisation and relations with authority. This is seen most vividly through gender relations, which are used both as a central expression, and a protector, of a particular construction of power. A formal, centralist treatment of RBA tends to reinforce existing relations through which rights are 'given' and 'received'. The thesis case study shows that, conversely, a pluralist, actor-oriented approach is more process-centred and places more emphasis on rights being 'made'. This, in itself, signals a change in actors' roles. It is argued that the energy of RBA lies in transformations in actors and in development relationships, rather than in achievement of bounded development outputs. Significant impacts, amongst a minority of responses to RBA, grow out of actors seizing more active, politicised roles in development, despite depoliticised donor approaches.