One may distinguish four stages of participation: preference revelation; policy choice; implementation; and monitoring, assessment and accountability.

1. Preference revelation: The initial stage of any policy formulation. Before policies can be formulated, people must be able to express what objectives they want to achieve.

2. Policy choice: The stage at which policies are formulated and decisions taken regarding the allocation of resources amongst alternative uses. As different patterns of resource allocation will serve the interests of different groups of people differently, conflicts of interest are inherent in any process of policy formulation. In whose favour a conflict is resolved depends very much on who can participate effectively in the process. Traditionally, people living in poverty and other marginalised groups are left out, as they do not have enough political or financial power to make their interests count. A human rights approach must take steps to alter this situation, by creating a legal-institutional framework in which people living in poverty can participate effectively in policy formulation.

3. Implementation: Although the implementation of policies is primarily the responsibility of the executive arm of the State, opportunities must be created to enable persons living in poverty to exercise their right to participate in it as well.

4. Monitoring and Assessment: It is an essential feature of the human rights approach that the people who are affected by policies are able to participate in monitoring and assessing their success or failure and then take part in the procedures for holding the duty-bearers accountable for their human rights obligations. Appropriate institutional arrangements are needed for such participation to be possible.

Source: Adapted from Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2006) Principles and Guidelines on a Human Rights-based Approach to Poverty Reduction Strategies: p.15.