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25 Nov 2021

International Service for Human Rights

UN General Assembly adopts resolution on strengthening protection of human rights defenders

"UNGA76: Third Committee acknowledges human rights defenders’ critical role in pandemic responses", 23 November 2021

The passage of a human rights defender resolution by the Third Committee of the GA by consensus, with 85 co-sponsors, is another important step in ongoing work to strengthen the promotion and protection of those who defend rights.

Following weeks of negotiation, States supported a resolution led by Norway focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic and the important and legitimate role that human rights defenders have played in its response, as well as the challenges faced as a result...

The resolution recognised that the pandemic exacerbated existing challenges, online and offline, for defenders, such as misinformation, intimidation, incitement to discrimination, surveillance, attacks, and restrictions on rights to assembly and expression. The resolution calls on States to ensure that emergency measures are not misused to endanger defenders or unduly hinder their work ... :

  • Strengthened language on gender equality, as well as language acknowledging the diversity of human rights defenders; 
  • Recognition of restrictions on access to resources for defenders;
  • References to the role of young people in contributing to human rights, democracy and the rule of law;
  • Strengthened language on surveillance and the use of national security offences against defenders;
  • Calls on States to seek to improve the effectiveness of existing protection mechanisms for defenders; and
  • Calls on States to promote through public statements the important and legitimate role human rights defenders play and to denounce stigmatisation of their work.