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25 Mar 2024

Andrew Bogrand & Sarah Gardiner, Inter Press Service

Opinion: US Congress & companies should act to protect Human Rights Defenders, to achieve just transition

"Defending Human Rights is Increasingly Dangerous: US Congress & Companies Must Act", 25 March 2024

Human rights defenders are under fire. At a time when the climate crisis is deepening and threats to democracy are on the rise, activists working to protect people and the environment are facing deadly threats. Front Line Defenders documented more than 400 murders of defenders in 2022—the highest number ever recorded.

New legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, might help reverse this alarming trend.

The Human Rights Defenders Protection Act of 2024 would strengthen the U.S. government’s ability to protect individuals abroad who are attacked for peacefully defending human rights....

Protecting and resourcing the work of defenders is critical to achieving a just energy transition, safeguarding the environment, upholding the rights of minority communities, countering democratic backsliding, and creating accountable and transparent systems of government....

“We need to be supported by our own governments,” said Mbuthuma [a South African human rights defender], “but also by the international community.” And, while governments, UN agencies, and multilaterals have the primary responsibility to protect human rights, companies have substantial obligations, too."

Stronger corporate policies coupled with more ambitious government action will strengthen our shared civic space and support defenders at risk everywhere.