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Global action plan calls for States at the UN General Assembly to ensure protection of human rights defenders worldwide

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. This effort to move the international community at the highest level on the need to ensure the effective safety and security of human rights defenders around the world comes at a time when their role is constantly challenged and undermined in blatant contradiction with international obligations and commitments. The meeting took place on 18 December 2018, twenty years on from when the first UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders was created A representative from the recent Human Rights Defenders World Summit presented the outcomes at the UN General Assembly, shining a spotlight on the increasing levels of danger facing activists worldwide. 


”We can only attain peace, security, dignity and sustainable development if we advance justice, freedom and equality for all, the ultimate goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Alice Mogwe, Director of Ditshwanelo – the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, on behalf of The Human Rights Defenders World Summit.

States are the main perpetrators behind violations against human rights defenders, either directly or in complicity with other powerful non-State actors. They must take urgent action to recognise their essential role, protect those at risk, and take concrete measures to foster a safe and enabling environment for the defence of human rights without discrimination.

“Governments, companies and other powerful figures are harassing, spying on, jailing, torturing and even killing human rights defenders – just for defending the fundamental rights of their communities. These people must be respected, protected and able to live and work in an environment where it is safe to claim human rights.”

Marking the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, more than 150 human rights defenders from around the world gathered in Paris earlier this year to plan for the next 20 years of advancing human rights.

The Summit came at a time when, on an almost daily basis, a human rights defender is reported killed, when criminalization and defamation have become standard risks, when illegitimate and abusive restrictions to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly are routinely introduced into law and when governments are failing their commitments made in 1998 to respect and protect these people.

During the summit, the participants adopted an Action Plan to be urgently implemented by States, businesses, financial institutions donors and intergovernmental institutions.

The Action Plan stresses that it is everyone’s responsibility to create an environment in which it is truly possible and safe to claim our human rights. However, it emphasises that those with power, state and non-state actors, must take the lead in creating a safe and enabling environment for those who defend human rights.

Since the Summit, thousands of people around the world have signed the Summit’s petition urging those in power to Protect Human Rights Defenders Everywhere.