Rights-based evaluation is not a new idea and has been a prominent way of thinking in the international development world for at least a decade. A broad framework for human rights is established by a number of declarations including: the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and six core human rights treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. (Each of these declarations can be found at the UNICEF website.)
In evaluation we consider needs assessment to be a key tool, and this can be relatively easily understood as a rights assessment, especially when we understand that rights are what is essential to live as human beings, the basic standards without which people cannot survive and develop with dignity. Human rights are thus inherent to the person, inalienable and universal. People may still need more than they have a right to, but this would seem a fundamental baseline.
A useful, short guide to the idea of a rights-based approach for program development, as well as monitoring and evaluation is Applying a Rights-based Approach: An Inspirational Guide for Civil Society.
Rights-based evaluation requires evaluators to be committed to general principles as key sources of criteria in evaluating; to taking a socio-cultural perspective and not just an inside a program box view; and requires evaluators to give as much time to the question of whether or not the right job is being done and not focusing only on whether the job is being done right.