Operationalising the Rights Agenda: Participatory Rights Assessment in Peru and Malawi

Throught the 1990s, debates about human rights and development increasingly converged. With a renewed focus on poverty reduction, international agencies have moved away from a narrow concern with the poverty line to attempt more deirectly to understand the underlying dynamics of poverty in any particular society or context. This shift has been supported by the increasing use of powerful analytical frameworks developed from theoretical wrok by Sen on entitlements and capabilities, from the food security literature of the 1980s and later work on vulnerability. Significantly, this has moved policy debates away from a focus on assessing and responding to needs, a process that in the past has not necessarily disturbed existing allocations of entitlements.

This article is a review of the Department for International Development (DFID) initiative in Malawi and Peru – the Participatory Rights Assessment Methodologies (PRAMs) project. The article looks at the challenges facing donor agencies as they seek to operationalise a stated commitment to rights-based development. Two cases studies are selected, one in Peru and one in Malawi.