Protecting Human Rights


Sexual survivors support group in the DRC
USAID assists women who are survivors of sexual violence in the South Kivu province of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a combination of psychological and economic support.

As we have recently seen in places like Egypt and Tunisia, GDP growth rates do not tell the whole story. 

Protecting human rights is closely linked to advancing long-term, sustainable development.  Rights are both part of the goal of development and instrumental to attaining other goals such as economic growth or democracy. 

The links between rights and development are many and complex:

  • Lack of rights leads to exclusion and marginalization of citizens, which lies at the root of much poverty, even in resource-rich environments.
  • Lack of rights exacerbates conflict and leads to cycles of violence.
  • Having rights means that people participate in making choices about their own lives, unleashing their own creative energies and strengthening social unity.
  • Living within a rights-protecting culture allows people to develop to the maximum of their capabilities.

USAID's human-rights programming is based on the following:

Protection of rights - actions or programming aimed at preventing or avoiding rights violations by the state, such as:

  • Protection of human rights defenders.
  • Increasing the capacity of vulnerable populations (including victims of torture or war trauma, people with disabilities, indigenous or tribal peoples, LGBT individuals, labor activists, detainees, women and children) to defend their rights and advocate for themselves.
  • Atrocity prevention, aimed at preventing attacks on vulnerable or marginalized populations.
  • Efforts to stop human trafficking and protect its victims.

Promotion of rights - actions or programming aimed at advancing rights, empowering communities and rights advocates, and advancing awareness, including:

  • Legislation and regulations aimed at preserving human rights in national law.
  • Human-rights education and awareness, especially among particularly vulnerable or marginalized populations.
  • Transitional justice or support for the different ways in which societies come to terms with a legacy of past human-rights violations and/or war crimes.

Principles - a way of working and thinking that imbues all our development work—a cross-cutting issue with applicability to everything we do:

  • Individuals have rights; our goal is to help them realize those rights. 
  • Governments have duties; our goal is to help them carry out those duties.
  • “Do no harm”; our programming should not inadvertently lead to rights violations, including forced displacement or systematic discrimination of people.

Protecting human rights strengthens resiliency by helping states and communities address underlying grievances that cause instability and conflict.

In fiscal year 2012: 

  • USAID provided medical treatment, psychological and social support, legal assistance and economic strengthening support to 43,000 survivors of torture and victims of gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • USAID supported 38 disability inclusive programs and activities in 52 countries. 

Read USAID's Counter-Trafficking in Persons Policy which aims to reinvigorate and focus Agency efforts to combat trafficking on concrete, measurable principles and objectives.  


Last updated: August 09, 2016

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