German Institute for Development Evaluation

Human Rights in German Development Policy: Concept, Implementation, Effectiveness


Human rights are a key guiding principle in German development policy. The implementation of this principle is defined in the BMZ strategy paper “Human Rights in German Development Policy” (BMZ 2011). This describes the primary objective of German development cooperation, namely to support partner countries with implementing human rights. To achieve this objective, German development policy follows a human rights-based approach, which includes integrating human rights into all German DC projects across the board and carrying out more specific human rights projects.

On the basis of proposals from BMZ and civil society actors, an evaluation of the human rights concept and human rights approach in German development policy was incorporated into the multiannual DEval evaluation programme 2019–2021.

Purposes and objectives of the evaluation

The evaluation includes summative and formative elements and is interested in gaining knowledge in two key areas: (1) Firstly, it aims to investigate the human rights-based approach and its implementation and effectiveness as well as to identify potential for improvement. (2) Secondly, the evaluation intends to contribute to examining the effectiveness of government, civil society and private sector actors with regard to their impact on human rights and the avoidance of human rights risks in partner countries.

These two priority areas are evaluated in the scope of two modules that follow on from one another. The evaluation aims to contribute both to learning and to accountability. In terms of learning, the goal is to identify ways of enhancing the human rights concept and its implementation at BMZ and the implementing organisations as well as to increase its effectiveness in partner countries. When it comes to accountability, the evaluation aims to provide information on the degree to which the human rights concept has been implemented and to evaluate the effectiveness of the human rights approach in the focus area of sustainable economic development.

Methodological approach

Due to the different types of knowledge that the two modules are interested in gaining, the methodological processes also differ. The first module takes the approach of strategy evaluation, whereby the empirical comparison of the intended strategy with that actually carried out allows the evaluation to identify ways of enhancing and implementing a strategy. The second module follows a theory-based approach. The foundation of theory-based approaches is what is known as a generative notion of causality, which is based on the empirical examination of the steps or mechanisms that lie between activities or achieved results and the intended impact.