A human rights-based approach is a general framework where human rights standards and principles are placed at the centre. The approach allows for the application of the principles of respecting human rights at every stage of the project. The approach is based on the idea that rights-holders are empowered to exercise their rights whereas the duty-bearers have to fulfil their obligations to protect human rights. Rights-holders represent individuals or groups who are related to the duty-holders and can make claims to have their rights respected. Duty-bearers are the state and non-state parties including the business enterprises that have the obligation to respect human rights.

This approach includes the following principles

(PANEL participation; accountability, non-discrimination, empowerment and legality)


empowered citizens actively participate in decisions that affect their future and exercise their rights


clearly defined responsibility of the duty-bearers (state, businesses, etc.) to the rights-holders and access to an effective remedy

Non-discrimination and equality

everyone has equal access to exercise their rights without discrimination


all people are empowered and actively participate in decision-making


observance of rights according to state legislation and international frameworks

Quality Standards
Quality Standards

A human rights and business-based approach

The approach places people at the centre of policies and practices based on internationally accepted standards. This approach empowers people to seek their rights and, with reference to business enterprises to respect human rights. Although this approach is often associated with the human development process and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in recent years it has been observed that the approach is also used by business enterprises in the application of the UN Guiding Principles and the human rights principles. Expressing opinions in social media is the most common example of how people exercise their right of freedom to expression that could bring both positive and negative consequence. A good example of the application of the human rights-based approach is content moderation in social media platforms. The steps that business enterprises could take are placing people at the centre when adopting content policies; referring to the international human rights framework; conducting due diligence when starting new projects thus improving products or services; monitoring, transparency and communication; interacting with vulnerable groups and engaging with various stakeholders. By applying the UN Guiding Principles, as well as a human rights-based approach more private and public organizations could meet their obligations to respect human rights.