Human Rights, Inclusion and Empowerment



The Human Rights, Inclusion and Empowerment Umbrella (HRIETF) is a World Bank Group program that supports a human rights-based approach to development by helping staff with human rights knowledge & learning. It builds on ten years of work by the Nordic Trust Fund (NTF), the first program to provide knowledge and learning on human rights in the World Bank Group.

The HRIETF provides financial grants and technical support on human rights to teams across the institution, based on competitive calls for proposals. The HRIETF generates knowledge from operational and analytical work in strengthening human rights, and from research and evaluations of a human rights-based approach to development. In addition, the program organizes learning events on human rights, including a core course for staff and managers.

HRDTF strategic priorities

Governance and inclusive institutions

Economic development and service delivery are undermined by institutions which are unaccountable and not inclusive and poor governance in general. Corruption, exclusion, and lack of participation and accountability can indicate unfulfilled human rights. Empowering all groups and individuals to participate in public affairs in a meaningful way can promote inclusive institutions and accountability and discourage corrupt practices.

The HRIETF supports governance[1] areas, such as public financial management, domestic resource mobilization, state-owned enterprises, public institutions, decentralization, and access to justice, to make projects in this sector more inclusive, transparent, and participatory. It also includes work on procurement practices through promoting gender equality and economic opportunities for vulnerable groups, including in FCV contexts.


Infrastructure plays a central role in both economic development and the fulfillment of human rights. Developing transport networks, communication, water supplies, and energy have the potential to lift large population groups out of poverty and contribute to the fulfillment of human rights.

Large infrastructure projects also have inherent risks, and the World Bank’s new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) aims to address these. The HRIETF can complement the ESF in these efforts. This can include supporting methods of preventing and responding to gender-based violence and violence against children in relation to large infrastructure projects, or supporting efforts to ensure access to services, including schools for children or health services for vulnerable populations.

Fragility, conflict, violence, and forced displacement

Human rights violations are a key driver of conflict, and realizations of human rights for all a key driver of peace. Ensuring the incorporation of human rights in work in FCV contexts can contribute to peace, to post-conflict stability and to addressing grievances that may hinder development. The HRDTF works in the area of human rights and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and in the security and development nexus. Additionally, the HRDTF offers support for work on forced displacement, youth participation, inclusion and preventing and countering violent extremism, as well as specific work on governance in FCV contexts.

Emerging areas, Research and Evaluation

Opportunities for the integration of human rights into development projects in new and innovative ways arise periodically throughout the WBG’s work. For example, measures to strengthen LGBTI rights, which started with an NTF grant, has since become a high-profile agenda within the WBG. Analytical work focused on discrimination has paved the way for policy dialogue with and technical support to government ministries.

“Emerging Areas” enables the HRIETF to provide technical and financial support to such innovative projects that may include: Social Inclusion, Human Trafficking, Human Capital Initiative, Disruptive Technologies, Youth, and Climate Change and Environment.

“Research and Evaluation” supports rigorous research and evaluations to add to existing knowledge around the value of incorporating human rights into development operations, and how best to do so.



Access to Justice

Data shows that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the lowest performer in terms of access to justice[2]. Progress has been much slower than in other parts of the world. This makes it difficult for rights-holders in the MENA region to turn to the courts to address violations of their rights, to hold duty-bearers accountable, and to settle disputes peacefully through the justice system.

The grant will support vulnerable people’s access to legal aid to empower them to enter and navigate the right system successfully. It will assist in small claims procedures tailored to their ability to navigate the judicial system. It will also implement court user surveys to clarify specific obstacles to access to justice.

The research and its human rights dimension will be applied to inform Systematic Country Diagnostics and Country Partnership Frameworks in MENA, client government reform initiatives, and increase engagement with civil society organizations in MENA.

Power Sector Recovery

Zimbabwe is a country with huge renewable energy resources potential, yet exploitation of these resources for addressing energy poverty is negligible due to economic challenges.

The grant will use a HRBA when assisting in the development of the National Electrification Strategy (NES), Integrated Energy Sector Gender Plan, Bankable Investment Plan, and National Electrification Program (NEP).

The grant will increase the knowledge and learning on how to advance human rights within the energy sector. The NES and NEP will create a new focus and momentum towards achieving national energy access targets specifically focusing on increasing affordable access to energy for marginalized groups. It also aims to increase participation in national electrification planning and establishing improved accountability measures for energy service provision.

Human Trafficking

Trafficked individuals are forced, deceived, or otherwise coerced into being under the control of another person for the purposes of exploitation, often under the guise of relocating to a new life. The available evidence links trafficking to a range of development issues, including poverty and vulnerability, human capital investment, gender inequality, and gender-based violence. 

The grant will conduct the first World Bank global analysis of human trafficking using data from the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and, start a dialogue on the role that the World Bank Group can play in preventing human trafficking through lending operations and policy dialogue with client governments.

The expectation is that this analysis of the IOM data will inform and lead into primary qualitative research among human trafficking victims to better understand the micro-level risks and drivers. The work will be complemented by qualitative work to generate a better understanding of how information, norms, and risk preferences affect trafficking

Indigenous Peoples and Land Rights

Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the Democratic Republic of Congo live in a context of marginalization and discrimination. Their progressive eviction from their ancestral lands has led to a substantial loss of access to the natural resources that they need for their economic and cultural survival.

The grant will support the inclusion of IPs in the policy dialogue on land tenure and forest, build IP expertise related to land tenure rights, and strengthen governance capacity of IP organizations.

The work aims to ensure that land rights of the IPs are better recognized in the legal framework and the IP representative organizations are more legitimate, transparent, financially effective, and sustainable.

Through another grant, a flagship report on human rights-based approaches to addressing emerging issues in land conflicts in FCV contexts will be developed. The report will include key international and regional/national norms and human rights principles relevant such as the rights to property, equality, non-discrimination, reparations and due process. 

These grants will provide task team leads of lending operations the knowledge necessary to identify when and how rights-based approaches to land can be integrated and to develop and effectively implement such initiatives.


The HRDTF was launched during the WBG/IMF Spring Meetings in April 2019. Its founding partners are Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands and Norway. The HRIETF builds on the ten years of experience of its predecessor, the Nordic Trust Fund (NTF).


The HRDTF Secretariat manages the administration of the trust fund, relations with development partners, and coordination support to the Partnership Council and the Steering Committees. The Secretariat also provides technical expertise on human rights to WBG teams and management. It supports and facilitates internal and external partnerships, leads select research initiatives, and knowledge and learning activities.

For further details, please contact: Human Rights, Inclusion and Empowerment Trust Fund @


[1] Governance is a process through which state and non-state actors interact to design and implement policies, within a given set of formal and informal rules that shape and are shaped by power (World Development Report 2017: Governance and the Law).

[2] Source: Access to Justice in MENA compared to other regions from 1946 to 2018 (Varieties of Democracy, Gothenburg University)