On 29, 30, 31 October, 2018, human rights defenders from across all corners of the world gathered in Paris for the Human Rights Defenders World Summit, to develop a plan of action for how to protect and promote the work of activists fighting for rights, 20 years on from the first UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. After three days of discussions and strategy development spanning regional and global issues, environmental rights and women human rights defenders and the increasing attacks on human rights defenders everywhere, the momentum culminated in the presentation of a landmark action plan which will be presented to the UN in December.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who spoke at the opening ceremony said: "What human rights defenders teach us is that all of us can stand up for our rights and for the rights of others, in our neighborhoods, in our countries and all over the world. We can change the world.”
The Summit discussed calls on Governments, corporations, international financial institutions, donors and others, including the adoption of national governmental action plans, implementation of legislation to legally uphold the UN declaration, protecting defenders as a priority in foreign policy and prioritizing the protection and work of women human rights defenders, LGBT+, indigenous rights defenders and other marginalized defenders.
Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: “The level of danger facing activists worldwide has reached crisis point. Every day ordinary people are threatened, tortured, imprisoned and killed for what they fight for or simply for who they are. Now is the time to act and tackle the global surge in repression of human rights defenders.”
The closing ceremony took place at the Palais de Chaillot, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed 70 years ago. The 150 defenders gathered together to set out the Action Plan and pay tribute to the men and women who work tirelessly to defend human rights around the world.
Among those in attendance over the last three days were Alice Mogwe, Secretary General of FIDH and the Director of Botswana Ditshwanelo; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia, who is calling for justice after his mother, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was assassinated one year ago in Malta; Anielle Franco, who is bravely campaigning on behalf of her sister, Marielle Franco, a Brazilian activist and elected councillor who was shot dead in her car seven months ago.
Hina Jilani, President of OMCT, founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and the first UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders said: “States have never given us space. It is because of human rights defenders that there is space for civil society. Seeing you all here engaged in defending human rights, I am not too pessimistic. As a movement, we have never been as global as we are now. But we have to be clear to states: you need to live up to the challenge and speak out for defenders. Human rights don’t come for free.”
The 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
In 1998, governments adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders to acknowledge the key role of human rights defenders. Despite progress in some areas, many governments are continuing to fall short of their commitments 20 years on from the first Summit and the global context in which human rights defenders operate in has become increasingly challenging. Democratic values are under threat and systemic corruption, extreme inequality and discrimination, religious fundamentalism and extremist policies are all on the rise. Alongside this, we have seen a concerted effort to undermine, discredit and kill human rights defenders. In 2017, at least 312 human rights defenders were assassinated, twice as many as in 2015, almost all with impunity for the perpetrators. The Action Plan hopes to tackle these injustices and support Human Rights Defenders to continue their critical work in a safe environment.
Click on play and watch the powerful video that summarizes The Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018 and the highlights of this historic event in Paris. Change the world. Protect human rights defenders!
On the occasion of the Human Rights Day - 20 years on from the first UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and on the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights -, the participants of the Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018 are releasing an action plan for the protection and the promotion of the work of human rights defenders in the years to come.
This action plan proposes a concrete set of measures and calls for a lasting commitment from States to act to protect human rights defenders and to take concrete actions to offer better protection and create a more favourable environment for their work.
This action plan is available to download (in five languages) on the Summit's website.
On December 18th, 2018, the World Summit's plan of action for how to protect and promote the work of human rights defenders was presented to the UN General Assembly following the major international summit held at the end of October. On behalf of hundreds of human rights defenders and organisations, Alice Mogwe delivered a powerful speech and called for States to ensure protection of human rights defenders worldwide. Do you want to watch the presentation of the Action Plan at the UNGA? Click on play.
Meet the HRD World Summit's defenders, inspiring and courageous individuals and representatives of communities that advance and protect human rights, every day, in the most difficult places around the world.
ProtectDefenders.eu has been the featured project during the Paris Peace Forum's conversation on the United Nations declarations on Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders. Andrew Anderson, Front Line Defenders' executive director and member of the Board of ProtectDefenders.eu, highlighted that "over the last three years, we have been able to provide emergency support to more than 11,000 human rights defenders worldwide. This is not only statistics: it is immediate and practical assistance to people defending human rights when they are most at risk".
"On issues of women's rights and LGBTQ rights we see a very well organized backlash so that attention can be taken away from corruption and authoritarianism. But that in itself is a sign that there is avancement on these rights", Anderson pointed out, alluding to the current context in which when human rights defenders are increasingly the subject of severe attacks and threats.
ProtectDefenders.eu has participated in the first Paris Peace Forum, showcasing the experience of the international civil society implementing the EU HRD mechanism as a successful example of civil society partnership and taking stock of the achievements and challenges of ProtectDefenders.eu as an essential and consolidated tool for the protection, empowerment and sustainability of human rights defenders and human rights organizations in the places where they are most at risk.
On the 20th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, PBI brought together HRDs from Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Kenya, Indonesia and Nepal to reflect on the importance of the Declaration as well as the support and international solidarity provided by organizations such as PBI. During three days, 13 human rights defenders from Indonesia, Latin America, Kenya and Nepal; as well as PBI representatives and partner organisations, came together in Brussels to exchange experiences and knowledge about holistic protection. This meeting allowed them to analyse the global tendencies that impact their risk as well as identify their common needs as a collective of human rights defenders. The sessions allowed to construct a common narrative and key messages and recommendations to political actors in the European Union and its member states.Watch the video below to find out more.
Weighing up the situation for human rights defenders over the past 20 years of the promotion of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights Defenders, we reiterate that we undertake our work in increasingly hostile contexts and we confront risks such as criminalization and the repression of social protest, the increase in killings and the increase in social conflictivity particularly due to the imposition of economic projects and religious fundamentalism.
Against this adverse scenario, we wanted to reflect on our achievements and we recognize, for example, that human rights defense movements have increased and strengthened in the countries where PBI maintains projects. We also highlight the historic sentences from the Inter-American Court as well as in certain States such as the sentence for genocide in Guatemala. In this vein, we consider that we have a greater amplitude of space in which to act and participate as human rights defenders. In certain countries, judicial insturments have progressively been adopted that strengthen the rule of law, such as the Kenyan Constitution in 2010. These successes have pushed for necessary changes so that societies may become fairer and more democratic and prove the importance of continuing to support and protect human rights defenders.
The delegation of 13 human rights defenders from Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Nepal and Indonesia had several meetings with the human rights and geographical departments of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the political attachées of members of the European Parliament. These political actors from the European Union had the opportunity to listen to the analysis and findings of the previous sessions and direct testimony from the human rights defenders, lawyers, defenders of women's rights, LGBTI rights, economic, social and cultural rights and others who daily confront violence. Similarly, they shared recommendations directed at recognizing the work of human rights defenders, improving their protection from a holistic perspective and reverting the situation of generalized impunity.
Concluding the event in Brussels, PBI joined the Permanent Representation of Austria in organizing a conference between human rights defenders, international experts from the UN, representatives from the EEAS and the General Trade Direction of the European Commission, permanent representatives of the member states and international human rights organizations. In the event the importance of good communication was highlighted as an empowering tool and protection through visibility, but also emphasis was put on the need to increase funds, promote and support networks and support the creation of legislation in favor of the protection of human rights defenders. The civil society representatives insisted on the need to promote binding legislation in the EU that regulates due diligence of companies and establishes effective mechanisms for access to justice with the participation of human rights defenders.
In July 2018, Francisco was one of the LGBTI human rights defenders who gathered together in Mexico City from across Latin America and the Caribbean to attend a training on digital security, organised by ILGA with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu.
Watch the video below to learn more about his story, the LGBTI human rights situation in Cuba and the importance of digital security for our communities!
A human rights defender is somebody who demands justice and dignity for us all. Some expose corruption and call for those in power to face justice. Some demand basic services, such as health, education, housing to be widely available. Some defend the right for anyone to live according to their own gender and sexual orientation. Some are women who defend the right of every woman to choose their own life freely, without being forced into marriage or maternity. Some are farmers and communities that want to protect their land from pollution and from businesses that bleed the land dry of precious resources like water and forests. They are brave - but regular - people. And they’re under attack.
Those in power, such as governments and large companies, are trying to silence human rights defenders – unfairly branding them as criminals, terrorists or “foreign agents”. Human rights defenders are locked up for speaking up. They are threatened, attacked and even murdered in horrifying numbers.
Enough is enough. It’s time we do something so bold that the governments can’t ignore us.
20 years ago, governments around the world signed a declaration, promising they would protect human rights defenders. This December, those governments will hold a special meeting at the UN to discuss the situation.
With your help, we can show that the world is watching the outcome of this meeting. Human rights defenders will hand in all your signatures and demand real protection, not just lip service.
Sign your name now, and call on governments to:
• Celebrate and protect human rights defenders, especially those who are marginalized and under attack because of their gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity and race, religion, status, ability, age, class.
• Stop attacking, smearing and stigmatizing those who fight for human rights to become a reality for every person in the world.
For this global call, we all need to join forces. Together, and with your support, our voices can be louder than ever.
Thanks to ProtectDefenders.eu, RSF was able to support CIMAC (Comunicación e Información de la Mujer), a Mexican civil society organisation funded by women journalists, in purchasing the necessary equipment they needed to start running adequately, mainly transmitter and antenna. It helped as well to provide the necessary professional and administrative support, personnel services and any other resources required for a successful implementation of the project and to ensure that administration capacity and internal control systems of project resources were adequate.
CIMAC (Comunicación e Información de la Mujer) is a Mexican civil society organisation funded by women journalists with whom RSF has been working. The organisation promotes gender equality and human rights among journalists, political actors, civil society and academia and aims in particular to build a journalism more sensitive to the question of gender and seeks to ensure that media respect the rights of women in their daily work.They decided to establish in 2017 a radio with other women CSOs, called Radio Violeta which is the first feminist community radio in Mexico City, promoting gender equality in a country typically dominated by men. The 106.1FM frequency was granted for 15 years. The radio tackles issues such as the youth and children, gender equality, gender violence, sexuality, health, relationships, art and culture. Yet, they had no funding to buy necessary equipment to run the radio and, in addition, they had been given six months to start functionnong otherwise the State would take away the frequency they were granted.