2023 Vienna Youth and Child Human Rights Defenders Conference

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor and Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen are standing amongst all the young human rights defenders participating in the 2023 Vienna Youth & Child Human Rights Defenders Conference. The picture is taken on a terrace of the UN Office in Vienna.

On 5 June 2023, 40 young human rights defenders joined me and our team in Vienna for a conference to address the challenges they face and the forms of support they need.

The conference was co-organised by the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and hosted by UN Office in Vienna. I would like to thank them both for all their efforts in making the event happen.

It was a moment to take stock of the present and look towards the future, while also marking the 25th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the 30th Anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme for Action.

Most of the HRDs who participated travelled long distances to attend, and almost all were faced with challenges when it came to the borders they had to cross to get there.

They were welcomed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Austrian Minister for Justice, and later greeted by the Austrian President.

During group sessions led by the participants over the course of the day, they shared their experiences and strategies, then reported back to their peers to build a broad picture of the situation for young human rights defenders across different regions.

Nine of the participants were under the age of eighteen, and were accompanied at the conference by guardians, in almost all cases a family member.

I learnt a great deal from all those who came, and I thank them for trusting in the value of the conference and for their incredible work.

We are working to collect and combine all the information the participants shared, and once done, will analyse it and reflect on what my Mandate can do to address some of the challenges identified by the HRDs.

The situation of young human rights defenders will remain a priority for me over the course of my mandate, and I intend to dedicate an upcoming thematic report to their role, work and risks they face.

Today I am launching a new section on my website dedicated to them. You can find some pictures from the conference there.



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