We all have the right and the responsibility to promote human rights and to safeguard democracy and its institutions. Human rights defenders are those of us that actively do so. Around the world, civic freedoms and human rights defenders (HRDs) are increasingly under attack and the environment in which civil society can operate freely is narrowing. This phenomenon is taking place not just in countries that are led by repressive or autocratic governments, but also in established democracies. In particular, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, freedom of information, and the right to privacy, are under increasing attack. Both companies and defenders have a shared interest in the full respect of civic freedoms, characterised by non-discrimination, transparent and accountable government, and freedom from corruption.
Prioritisation of business interests over interests of communities and workers is one of the key challenges faced by defenders. HRDs who confront business interests – be it human rights lawyers, labour activists and unionists, land and environmental defenders, anti-corruption activists or human rights journalists – are among those defenders most at risk. They are key agents of change, and they contribute greatly to safeguarding human rights and ensuring corporate responsibility. This portal collects the latest news on struggles and victories of these defenders, public company actions and policies in support of defenders and civic freedoms, guidance for companies and investors, and developments related to the two most targeted groups - labour rights defenders and land and environmental defenders. It also links to our database of attacks and our interview series, where defenders share their strategies, victories, and recommendations and business representatives share their perspectives on protecting civic freedoms and human rights.
The responsibility of businesses to respect human rights not only entails a negative duty to refrain from violating the rights of others, but also a positive obligation to support a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders in the countries in which they are operating. Discharging this duty requires consultation with defenders in order to understand the issues at stake and the shortcomings that impede their work.Mr Michel Forst, former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
Featured stories & campaigns
Escazú Agreement to protect environmental and human rights defenders enters into force on International Earth Day
The International Mother Earth Day 2021 marked the entry into force of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, also known as the Escazú Agreement. The Escazú Agreement is the first treaty to include specific provisions for the protection and promotion of human rights defenders in environmental matters.
In the line of fire: Increased legal protection needed as attacks against business & human rights defenders mount in 2020
2020 was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the significant harm to health and livelihoods it has caused across the globe. Instead of serving as a rallying cry to better protect those worst affected, the economic fallout of the global health crisis was cited by many countries and companies as a reason to weaken environmental and social regulation and increase extractive projects. Our 2020 report found that this resulted in even more attacks on communities and human rights defenders (HRDs).
Four Indigenous women at risk for protecting lands against corporate exploitation
Four courageous Indigenous women from the Philippines, Cameroon, Ecuador, and Guatemala shared their stories of resilience and resistance in leading the fight for land rights and self-determination in their respective communities.
Our analysis & infographics
Since 2015, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has been collecting data on attacks on human rights defenders, focusing on business sectors and specific businesses. Our infographics and briefings show patterns of violence, identify at-risk business sectors and geographic areas, provide guidance for business & investors as well as in-depth analysis of some specific types of attacks, such as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs).
Explore further: Database of attacks on HRDs & HRDs Interview series
The Resource Centre collects data on attacks on defenders that are targeted because they raise concerns about business sectors and operations. Collecting data about attacks on defenders is important in order to analyse patterns of violence, identify at-risk business sectors and geographic areas, and provide support to targeted individuals and groups.