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A Manifesto for a Human Rights-Based Approach

By Martin Connelly, Nic Cook, Hinda Mohamed and Kayleigh Rousell, with Helen Flynn, Susanna Hunter-Darch and Emma Lough.

Through the Community Researchers project, human rights defenders from Difference NE, Intisaar, The Annexe at The Wharton Trust and Sheppey is Ours! identified certain focus points which are fundamental to applying a Human Rights-Based Approach in practice. These differ from the PANEL principles usually associated with the approach which incorporate: Participation, Accountability, Non-Discrimination, Empowerment and Legality.

Through working together and meeting with allies and activists who have embraced human rights as a tool for social change, the group devised a manifesto for action with a set of human rights focus points at its heart. These are:

Solidarity, Power, Access, Accountability, Intersectionality.

These focus points need to be held at the core of work we do, alongside the Human Rights Based-Approach principles, as a manifesto for action.


Solidarity comes from people, holding space for all lived experiences and the problems that different people and communities face. It can be found in the form of space, feelings or actions that build collective power through empathy and communication. Ultimately, solidarity is about allyship, building our awareness and knowledge of our interdependency and collective power to make change happen.


If power can be given, it can be taken away. We recognise the unlocked power in our communities in the form of knowledge and experience that is not seen, heard or respected. Power is structural and needs to shift but it is also inherent and comes from people. We strive for a non-hierarchical society in which there is no ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’, and systems are shaped by the people most affected. We can empower ourselves, but we cannot be empowered by others.


Access is about more than participation. It must be constant, inclusive, and intentional. Only when everyone has equal cultural and physical access to systems, spaces, and decision-making can those practices and processes claim to be valid. We work, unrelentingly, to open up access, extend access - remove barriers.


We hold ourselves to account and we hold others to account. We do this to make sure that we remain true to our core principles and that our social systems reflect and uphold these. Where necessary, we will push to change the law to ensure everyone is protected, heard, and treated with respect.


Intersectionality is about more than non-discrimination. We understand individuals and communities as complex with multiple and overlapping needs and identities that should be seen, respected, and celebrated. When change takes place, it needs to reflect the different dimensions of personal and interpersonal experience.

Using these focus points, we claim the right to talk about rights – and through this make rights real for everyone.


To read more about our learning about the PANEL principles read our report, Whose Rights Are They Anyway?

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