18. May a state prioritise a specific sector of development cooperation?

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May a state prioritise a specific sector of development cooperation?

Yes and no. On the one hand, the indivisibility and interrelatedness of human rights prohibit a rigid prioritisation of one human right at the expense of another. On the other hand, human rights law encourages states to set priorities if limited resources do not allow implementation of all human rights at the same time. This is valid for recipient countries as well as for donors who usually work under request from recipients of development assistance.

It is mainly a political decision whether a state prioritizes health care or basic education, for example, and none that can be taken on the basis of human rights standards alone. But there are limits to political discretion: Human survival – in terms of shelter, food, water, and health – always needs to be guaranteed.  In addition, states need to use the available resources for maximum human rights gains for persons and groups in vulnerable situations. (see Question "Is a country obliged to implement human rights despite a lack of resources").

While prioritising, states also have to prove that they are using the maximum of resources available in order to realize all human rights systematically and effectively (Cf. UN / Economic and Social Council (1990): General Comment No 3. The nature of state parties obligations)

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