What is the Due Diligence Framework?

What is the Due Diligence Principle?

What is the Due Diligence Project?

Extracted from the Due Diligence Framework: Framework on State Accountability to Eliminate Violence Against Women.

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Due Diligence Principle

Public international law mandates States to exercise due diligence to promote, protect and fulfill human rights. This principle is commonly referred to as the “due diligence” principle. The obligation extends to not only preventing human rights abuses by the state and its agents, but also those by non-state actors in the so-called “private realm.” In order to properly address the violence committed against women, particularly by non-state actors, it is imperative that we have a deeper understanding of this obligation. What does it mean to act with “due diligence?”  What exact actions are required? When has this obligation been satisfied? Do the obligations change according to the circumstances? A deeper understanding is needed in order for international monitoring mechanisms to accurately gauge States' compliance with this obligation. States too need guidance on what exact actions are expected in order to track their own progress. 

In the majority of the cases violence is perpetrated by non-state actors, for example by a close male relative or intimate partner. In fact, the most common form of violence experienced by women globally is intimate partner violence. It is estimated that one in three women experiences violence in her lifetime. Situations of armed conflicts constitute another context where women are increasingly experiencing violence at the hands of non-state actors, such as paramilitary and militia groups. It is for instance estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, that between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped in Bosnia during the conflict in the early 1990s, and that around 200,000 women and girls were raped during the armed conflict in Bangladesh in 1971. 

Traditionally the State was only held accountable for violations of human rights committed by its agents.  By extending accountability for acts of violence perpetrated by non-state actors to the State, public international law recognizes that violence against women, whether committed by State or non-State actors constitutes human rights violations. This also means that the State has the obligation to enter the so-called ‘private sphere’ where most instances of violence against women take place. This is a sphere from which the State had excluded itself, preferring to limit instead only to the public sphere. Hence the concept of due diligence has helped rupture the artificial “public/private sphere” divide, as well as State/non-State actor dichotomy.

Due Diligence Framework

The Due Diligence Project has developed the Due Diligence Framework: Framework on State Accountability to eliminate Violence against Women. The Framework is supported by guiding principles. The Framework and Guidelines are critical to facilitate information analyses and increase accountability. They measure progress and achievements; improve decision-making for the management of ongoing programmes; achieve consistency between activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts; and identify the need for corrective or remedial action.

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Due Diligence Project

Due diligence is an important international principle.  In the context of violence against women, it denotes a State’s obligation to take ‘reasonable’ action to prevent, protect against, prosecute, punish and provide redress for violence against women. This obligation applies to the State despite the fact that most instances of violence against women are committed by non-state actors and within the private sphere.

The notion of State obligation to address violence against women, encompassed by the “due diligence principle” is not new. Discussions of “State accountability” and “Duty of the State” and “Impunity for acts of violence against women” encapsulate a similar understanding. Still, despite this general acceptance of a State obligation, the exact content of the obligation remains unclear, and yet is the lynchpin in the struggle to end violence against women. 

A deeper understanding of the due diligence principle is needed in order to crystallize this obligation.

The Project

The Due Diligence Project is research-advocacy project. The principle aim of the Project is to add content to the international legal principle of ‘due diligence’ in the context of State responsibility to end violence against women. The objective is to create and accountability framework based on the due diligence principle, namely the Due Diligence Framework together with guiding principles that are concrete and measurable across regions.

The Project sets out to do this by answering the following four questions: (1) What is generally understood to be the content of the due diligence principle - by governments, civil society advocates, and international legal scholars and experts working on violence against women? (2) How can compliance with this obligation be monitored, assessed and evaluated – by governments, civil society advocates and international legal scholars and experts working on violence against women? (3) How are States complying with their due diligence obligation to prevent, protect against, prosecute, punish and provide redress for acts of violence against women? (4) What are good practices to eliminate violence against women, globally and regionally?


The Project has both global and regional components.


The global component consists of literature review, which focus on studying the development and evolution of the due diligence principle in international law and how it is being commonly applied today. It also looks at the context of violence against women, its historical roots of exclusion and invisibility in the human rights discourse, as well as its later recognition as a violation of human rights. The final output of this Project is a report which will draw from the above, as well as from the research and data from the regional component described below.


The regional component seeks to provide primary data and regional specificities that cannot be captured at the global level. This is accomplished through a questionnaire; meetings with regional experts; and continued publicly accessible research on State compliance in each region. The analysis of this regional process is captured in regional reports and informed the larger, global report.

The Project worked in all six regions as follows: Africa; Asia-Pacific; Europe; Latin America and the Caribbean; Middle East and North Africa; and North America. In each region, save for North America, approximately 6–10 countries was selected. The selection of the countries was done in consultation with regional consultants and experts and reflect the diversity of the region including political, legal, cultural, historical and economic/financial diversity and capacity, exposure to different types of violence against women such as violence committed during armed conflict, female genital mutilation, and early marriage.


(1) Literature review

The Project conducted literature review including but not limited to international, regional and national jurisprudence; laws; national action plans; State reports, submissions, pledges and statements at international fora and to international bodies; academic journals and writings; and civil society reports and statements in the area of violence against women. Countries also sometimes release data, or make data accessible to the public through census, prevalence studies, laws, policies, programs, and the country’s own monitoring and evaluation of its policies.

(2) Expert meeting

An expert meeting was held on 26-27 April 2011 in Boston, USA.  The main goal was to strategize on the meaning and content of the due diligence principle, research methodology and execution of the Due Diligence Project. The meeting was attended by 22 participants from 14 countries.

An experts’ meeting was also convened mid-way through the project in June 2012 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The goal was to gather those drafting the regional reports to engage in a shared, intense and focused discussion about the proposed reports, their structure and content including thematic issues and analysis and presentation of primary and secondary data.

(3) Questionnaire

The principle tool for collection of data was a questionnaire to be distributed to civil society organisations (CSOs) working on violence against women. The questionnaire probed existing State measures and challenges encountered by CSOs in their work to end violence against women. The questionnaire also probed civil society on its perception of State action in discharging its obligation; the effectiveness of these actions; and how they could be improved. The questionnaire was completed to 6-12 CSOs in approximately 6-10 countries per region.  In total about 900 questionnaires were distributed.  Three hundred CSOs from 48 countries completed the questionnaires.

(4) Regional consultations/meetings with experts

The objective of regional consultations/meetings with experts was to obtain qualitative data of systemic regional patterns or issues, as well as to have a focused discussion on thematic issues of importance to that region. These consultations/meetings were organized as stand-alone events by the Due Diligence Project, or scheduled back to back with existing meetings.

(5) Country Profiles

The DDP prepared 15-20 page dossiers for each selected country ascertaining its compliance with the due diligence obligation. The dossiers were based on publicly accessible documents such as government reports to UN Treaty Bodies and the Human Rights Council; country visits by mandate holders and each country’s own pledges and statements. Data was also obtained from census, prevalence studies, laws, policies, programmes and the country’s own monitoring and evaluation of its policies. The profiles were then circulated to country experts for their comments and feedback. Country experts attending regional consultative meetings (see below) also contributed memoranda on VAW, State action and gaps and challenges in their respective countries.

(6) Panel Discussions

The DDP also convened panels in conjunction with international events. Side events were convened in October 2012 in conjunction with the 67th UN General Assembly session in New York on ‘Protecting Women from Violence — Bridging Policy and Practice’; in March 2013 in conjunction with the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York on ‘Due Diligence from the Ground Up: State Compliance to End Violence against Women’; panels in June 2013 in conjunction with the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council; in June 2013 at a panel at the Law & Society Conference in Boston; in October 2013 in conjunction with the 68th UN General Assembly session in New York on ‘Due Diligence Framework: A Framework for Accountability in Ending Violence against Women’ as well as in December 2013 a roundtable discussion on ‘International and Regional Standard Setting to Eliminate Violence Against Women’ in Bali.


The findings of the project are available here and will shared with and  submitted to (1) various intergovernmental expert bodies and mandates for their consideration; and (2) governments and civil society. The DDP also developed the Due Diligence Framework: Framework on State Accountability for Eliminating Violence against Women. The reports will be launched at a parallel event in conjunction with the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women on 13 March 2014.


The DDP aims to yield the following outcomes: (1) A common understanding of the meaning of the due diligence principle which is global, yet which allows for particular (regional) realities; (2) Increased awareness of the due diligence principle;  (3) Enhanced implementation of the due diligence principle; (4) Measurable indicators on the due diligence principle which will facilitate compliance of States’ due diligence obligation; (5) Advocacy tools to increase awareness and promote adoption by States as well as instrumentalise due diligence standards and compliance guidelines; and (6) Training modules and technical support for civil society to utilise the due diligence standards and indicators in their work.

This will result in the due diligence principle becoming more accessible, tangible, practical, applicable, measurable, comparable and implementable globally.




Prevent violence against women

Protect women from violence

Prosecute and investigate incidences of violence against women

Punish perpetrators of violence against women

Provide redress to victims/survivors of violence against women