While accountability is a very familiar term in the international development jargon, it is one that is seldom defined. From a human rights perspective accountability is the requirement for government and public institutions to enable their principals to hold them responsible for their actions in line with their human rights obligations. It comes with a duty to report, explain and justify how they are fulfilling these obligations. In addition, Article 2(3) of the ICCPR stipulates that effective redress mechanisms must be in place in the case of human rights violations. Besides ensuring retrospective responsibility through the courts, accountability also contains future-orientated aspects by allowing for the empowerment of people, groups and institutions through a strengthening of citizen’s participation in the different stages of policy-making: design, implementation and evaluation. In order to enable right holders to demand and discuss the human rights compliancy of policies and their planning, they require certain information: What are their rights? Who is responsible for the design and implementation of which policies? How are they being realised? Where can they file grievances? Consequently, accountability requires transparency. This right to information is enshrined in Article 19(2) of the ICCPR.
A critical and satirical definition of the term "accountability": The Guardian (15.10.2013): Development jargon decoded: accountability
Generally accountability in development cooperation is discussed in connection with the duties of the partner countries, much less so in connection with the obligations of the donor countries towards the population of the recipient country. In May 2011, in its concept on Human Rights in German Development Policy, the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development announced that it would consider the establishment of a complaints mechanism for human rights violations in bilateral development cooperation. This complaints mechanism would empower individuals in partner countries to address their grievances directly to Germany as the donor country if they feel that they have been adversely affected by the consequences of German development cooperation.
By 2012 the German Institute for Human Rights had already taken up the Ministry’s idea and conducted two consultations with the civil society in which it discussed questions concerning the necessity and design of such a complaint mechanism.
In the autumn of 2012 the German human rights NGO network, Forum Menschenrechte (a network of 51 human rights NGOs) had presented a proposal for such a human rights complaint mechanism for German development cooperation.
In a position paper the German Institute for Human Rights demands the establishment of a complaint mechanism. It outlines the necessity, both in terms of human rights and international development, and explained a possible design of such a mechanism. The paper presents the added value of such a process and addresses possible challenges and discusses how development policy can respond to them.
Policy Paper No. 22: Human Rights require Accountability. Why German bilateral development cooperation needs a human rights complaint mechanism. Table of contents and executive summary in English. (PDF, 216 KB, not barrier-free)
Proposal of the Forum Menschenrechte (2012): Proposal for a Human Rights Complaint Mechanism for German development cooperation (PDF, 56 KB, not barrier-free)
Policy Paper No. 22: Mehr Menschenrechte durch Rechenschaftslegung. Warum die deutsche Entwicklungszusammenarbeit einen menschenrechtlichen Beschwerdemechanismus braucht (Title in English: More Human Rights through Accountability. Why German Development Cooperation needs a human rights grievance mechanism)
Press release: Institut empfiehlt zügige Einrichtung eines Beschwerdemechanismus für die deutsche Entwicklungszusammenarbeit (Title in English: The Institute recommends the rapid establishment of a grievance mechanism for German development cooperation)
Events with the civil society – looking back
German Entrepreneurial Development Cooperation establishes complaint procedure, please see news from 04.03.2014
Accountability also requires: assessing whether set objectives have been fulfilled, analysing the reasons why they might not have been achieved and drawing conclusions for future initiatives, in short: evaluating the development projects.
In 2012, at the request of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the German Institute for Human Rights conducted an independent human rights assessment of the German-Cambodian Land Rights Programme. In its conclusion it presented recommendations for future programmes.
Lüke, Monika (2013): Human Rights Assessment of the German-Cambodian Land Rights Program
Ensuring the transparency of both governmental and non-governmental human rights promotion is matter of concern for the German Institute for Human Rights: In 2011, in cooperation with the Dreilinden GmbH, the institute published an exemplary study on the funding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex assistance projects, which encompasses both public and private donors. A follow-up study for 2014 is currently in the pipeline.
Press release on the publication of the study in 2011 (in German):
Pressemitteilung: Menschenrechte von Lesben, Schwulen, Bi-, Intersexuellen und Transgender in Entwicklungs- und Transformationsländern systematischer fördern (31.08.2011) (Title in English: Systematically promoting the human rights of lesbian, gays, bisexuals, trans* and inter* people in developing and transition countries)
Written report on the discussion with Steven Lawrence the Foundation Center’s director of research in the institute in November 2013 (in German):
Forschungsdirektor des Foundation Centre zu Gast im Institut - Austausch über Transparenz in der Menschenrechtsförderung (08.11.2013) (Title in english: The Foundation Center’s director of research visit to the Institute – An exchange on transparency in human rights building)
This Info-Tool, designed for development practitioners, gives an overview of methods to incorporate human rights into budget drafting and experiences made with human rights budgeting. The publication is a result of the cooperation with the sectoral project: "Realizing Human Rights in Development Cooperation".
Publikation Human Rights Budgeting (2010)
The German Institute for Human Rights has also positioned itself with regard to accountability and transparency in development cooperation in front of international forums and committees.
Accountability and transparency are discussed in paragraphs 36-38.
Report of the German Institute for Human Rights in the Course of the Second Review of Germany under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council 2013 (PDF, 264 KB, not barrier-free)
Recommendations of the German Institute for Human Rights in the Course of the Second Review of Germany under the UN Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) 2013 (PDF, 215 KB, not barrier-free)
Further information on Second Review of Germany under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR )2013 (in German)
German Institute for Human Rights (2013):
Questionnaire on large-scale development projects and a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders (PDF, 77 KB, not barrier-free)
Report of the UN Special Rapporteur:
Situation of human rights defenders (PDF, 128 KB, not barrier-free)
Two publications stemming from the cooperation with GIZ’s sector programme on human rights focus on accountability as part of a human rights-based approach:
The German Institute for Human Rights has addressed the issues of accountability and transparency in development cooperation in further publications:
In an issue of the Zeitschrift für Menschenrechte (ZfMR) on "Human Rights as a yardstick for international politics" which was developed in cooperation with the German Institute for Human Rights:
Kämpf, Andrea; Winkler, Inga (2013): Zwischen Menschenrechtsförderung und Duldung von Menschenrechtsverletzungen? Anforderungen an die Entwicklungszusammenarbeit aus der Perspektive der extraterritorialen Staatenpflichten, in: ZfMR 2012/02 (Title in English: Between promoting human rights and tolerating the violation of human rights? Requirements for development cooperation from the perspective of their extraterritorial state obligations)
In a policy paper of the institute:
Kämpf, Andrea; Würth Anna (2010): Policy Paper Mehr Menschenrechte in die Entwicklungspolitik! (Title in English: Policy Paper: More Human Rights in Development Policy)
The Department for International Human Rights Policy introduces in loose succession reports from the United Nations, preceded by a summary and an excerpt of the recommendations in German.
Senior Policy Adviser