Thematic Areas

Reflection-Action Lenses

AoA - Rights & policy analysis

AoA - Rights & policy analysis

Rights analysis involves identifying people living in poverty and excluded groups and their condition and positions; the key areas of rights violations; the perpetrators and duty bearers; and the state of people’s rights awareness and organisation.

Understanding rights

Over the past 65 years state parties (or national governments) at the United Nations have progressively agreed a broad set of human rights and freedoms that give equality to all human beings. Human rights belong to a person by virtue of being born. They are independent of a person’s sex, religion, disability, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, where they live or any other status. They cannot be given or taken away. All human beings are equally entitled to rights, without discrimination. 

Rights holder: A rights-holder, is entitled to rights, is entitled to claim rights, is entitled to hold the duty-bearer accountable, and has a responsibility to respect the rights of others.

Duty bearer: A duty bearer has the obligation to respect, protect, and fulfil the rights of the rights-holder. The overall responsibility for meeting human rights obligations rests with the state. This includes all the organs of the state such as parliaments, ministries, local authorities, judges and justice authorities, police, teachers or extension workers.

Participatory tools for rights analysis

  • Problem treeA problem tree can be used to look at the causes and effects of a particular rights violation. The roots would be the causes of the rights violation and the branches would show the effects.
  • Pairwise ranking matrix - Pairwise ranking can be used to help community members prioritise key rights for community action. The list of different rights violations would be written (or marked using a symbol) along both the horizontal and vertical axes of the matrix. Working their way across each box of the matrix participants would then indicate which out of each pair of rights violations was the most in need of action.
  • Triangular analysisTriangular analysis can be used to analyse content, structure and culture in relation to a particular rights violation.

Some key questions for rights analysis

General questions

  • Who are the key excluded groups (and sub-groups within these) whose rights are most systematically violated?
  • What are the most serious rights issues/denials/violations?
  • Who are the primary/secondary duty bearers in relation to these rights?
  • What is the particular experience of women within these groups?
  • What key legal entitlements do people have, who is aware of these and who enjoys these? (Differentiate between men, women, girls, boys, people with disabilities etc.

Analysing the content of laws and policy

  • Is there a law or policy that contributes to the problem by protecting the interests of some people over others?
  • Is there a law or policy that helps address the particular issue you have chosen?
  • Is adequate government money budgeted to implement the solution described in the policy or law?
  • Analysing the structures that implement laws and policies
  • To what extent do the police enforce the law fairly?
  • To what extent do the courts enable men and women to find a solution?
  • Is the legal system expensive, corrupt or inaccessible?
  • Are there support services where people can get help to access the system fairly?
  • Through what policies and programmes are rights implemented and monitored for achievement?
  • What challenges are there with the implementation of these policies and programmes?
  • To what extent do existing programmes and services work in a discriminatory way?
  • Does a government or non-governmental agency exist to ensure the law is implemented?

Analysing culture

  • Are there any political or social values and beliefs that contribute to the problem?
  • In what way do cultural beliefs contradict basic rights?
  • How do different groups get to know their rights and how to access their rights?
  • Do family and social pressures block a fair solution?
  • Do psychological issues play a role? Do people lack belief in their self-worth?



Here you can download some useful resources.

Tools in this toolbox

Cobweb for rights analysis

To help understand the rights situation and of different groups in a community.In the example below the focus is on women's right…

Community scorecard

To help groups assess services, facilities programmes or projects run by government, NGOs or other organisations, by grading them…

Forcefield analysis

To identify helpers and spoilers – people, organisations or events that might help or hinder your work. For a similar tool, adapt…

Pairwise ranking matrix

To compare a set of issues and find out which is the most important to participants. Known as a pairwise or preference ranking ma…

Problem tree

To explore cause and effect.A tree can be used to explore cause and effect or problem and solution. The various elements of a tre…

Social map

This is a bird’s eye view of a village that shows the demographic details and the social infrastructure available for the people …