Success through perseverance and solidarity: 25 years of achievements by human rights defenders (Press Release)

GENEVA (15 March 2023) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, today urged States to publicly recognise the great successes achieved by human rights defenders all over the world.

“All over the world the positive achievements of human rights defenders too often go unrecognised. Twenty-five years after States agreed on a Declaration to promote and protect the work of human rights defenders, their successes are ignored,” Lawlor said in a report presented to the 52nd Session of the Human Rights Council.

The report includes details of successes achieved by human rights defenders in a wide range of contexts, including changing laws, getting people released from prison, providing humanitarian aid, and exposing corruption. The report shows that for some human rights defenders just continuing their work under immense pressure is in itself an achievement.

“Human rights defenders are often victims of their own success, targeted because they confront powerful vested interests, because they expose corruption, because they refuse to accept injustice, because they challenge criminal gangs, because they talk about things governments want to hide, because they tell the truth, and because they make good things happen,” she said.

“States can and should do more to protect defenders. They can start by publicly celebrating the work of defenders in their own country, and in other countries. Twenty-five years on from the declaration, defenders are right to expect more support and protection than they currently receive.”

The report notes that successes achieved by HRDs rarely happen overnight but are often the result of long struggles requiring perseverance and the help of networks and other allies in a collective effort.

“Ignoring or underplaying the vital contribution of human rights defenders increases the risks to them and their work,” said Lawlor. “This anniversary year of the Declaration should be one of celebration and recognition of the successes of defenders, one of not just recommitting to help them, but of showing in practical terms what that help should be,” she said.

The report includes practical recommendations for States, based on consultations with human rights defenders, NGOs, academic experts and government officials, on how to better support the work of defenders and promote their achievements.



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