12. What are Germany’s human rights obligations as a bilateral donor?

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What are Germany’s human rights obligations as a bilateral donor?

As a member of the United Nations, Germany is obliged to promote “universal respect and observance” of human rights (UN Charter, Article 55 and 56) in all policy areas, including international cooperation. Germany thus has the same type of obligation as her partners. Furthermore, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stipulates that states realise economic, social and cultural rights by means of international cooperation.

In the process of development cooperation Germany has the following specific obligations:

  • under no circumstances to take part in human rights violations through either acting or failure to act within the framework of bilateral or other forms of international cooperation (obligation to respect);
  • to prevent human rights violations by German citizens or private enterprises abroad, provided these are under effective control of the state (obligation to protect);
  • to go about development cooperation in such a way that it verifiably contributes to the fulfilment of human rights in the partner country (obligation to support to fulfil).


In its Concluding Observations (Word, 67 KB) (December 2010), the UN treaty body for the ICESCR urged Germany to make sure that development cooperation did not violate but contributes to human rights realization.

Further Reading

Reading Tip

Deutsche Geschellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) (2013): Promising Practices - On a human rights-based approach in German development cooperation. GIZ, 26 p.

Deutsche Geschellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) (2011): National Human Rights Institutions. GIZ, 10 p.