Conceptual and Methodological Advances
Edited by Frank Vanclay and Ana Maria Esteves
Chapter 21: A Human Rights-based Approach to Social Impact Assessment
Gillian MacNaughton and Paul Hunt Introduction In recent years, as a field of research and practice, social impact assessment (SIA) has grown to encompass a professional value system that is based upon fundamental human rights (Vanclay, 2003). Key features of this value system are fairness, transparency, participation, accountability and empowerment. It also holds a central concern for disadvantaged groups in society, including women, minorities and people living in poverty. Drawing on these core values, the SIA community has adopted fundamental principles for development and for SIA practice. First among these principles is that ‘respect for human rights should underpin all actions’ (Vanclay, 2003, p. 9). Independent from this evolution in the SIA community, the human rights community has recently begun to explore using impact assessment as a tool to advance the enjoyment of human rights. Indeed, the United Nations human rights treaty bodies have called upon governments to perform human rights impact assessments to ensure that they are respecting their obligations under international human rights law (Hunt and MacNaughton, 2006). In response, the human rights community – including UN Special Rapporteurs, civil society organizations, academics and others working to promote and protect human rights – has embarked on developing human rights impact assessment (HRIA) methodologies and tools, and have drawn upon the experiences of the other types of impact assessment, including SIA (UNHCHR, 2009). This convergence of values and methodology in the SIA and human rights communities makes it timely to open a discussion to consider the potential benefits of these two...
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