The meaningful participation of beneficiaries in aid programmes directed to human rights reform is crucial to their success. Their views on ways to improve them deserve serious attention. In interviews with beneficiaries in four countries we were told that aid for reform has had an impact. In the justice sector (the focus of our study) foreign
aid has facilitated constitutional development and legislative reforms and helped expand civil society and transform the justice system. Aid programmes have helped introduce human rights concepts into public consciousness and public institutions in societies where such notions were once seen as subversive.
We were also told that human rights assistance can be wasteful and even do harm. Badly conceived and implemented programmes have sheltered repressive regimes from scrutiny, wasted vital resources and distorted domestic institutions. Donors sometimes promote inappropriate models and put their foreign policy interests before human rights. They can be unreliable partners, subject to quick fixes and too much attention on “exit strategies”. Success depends on many factors, not least paying more attention to local perspectives. This report sets out some of the main issues. It offers signposts that we hope will be useful to both donors and beneficiaries looking for ways
to strengthen the impact of human rights assistance.