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15 Mar 2023

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders publishes report highlighting 25 years of achievements by defenders

"Success through perserverance and solidarity: 25 years of achievements by human rights defenders," 15 March 2023

[T]he Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, takes stock of the 25 years that have passed since the adoption of the... Declaration on Human Rights Defenders... and highlights examples of achievements and success stories... Too often the vital work of human rights defenders goes uncredited and unacknowledged.

... Many human rights defenders have cited the passage of legislation as a major success... [however] all too often laws supporting and protecting the work of human rights defenders are not properly enforced and... those who murder defenders are unlikely to be brought to account... For some human rights defenders, the continuation of their work, the simple survival of their peaceful efforts for others, is in itself success. The Special Rapporteur understands that, in many dangerous contexts, simply existing as a human rights defender is a considerable achievement, as with women defenders in various contexts... and with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) defenders.

... The role of human rights defenders in blowing the whistle on corporate abuse... underscore why it is vital that defenders are included in any meaningful mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence process... The Special Rapporteur recommends that businesses and investors:

  • Ensure that human rights defenders are included in human rights policies and are consulted on a periodic basis, especially in the high-risk sectors for defenders...
  • Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for reprisals against human rights defenders throughout their operations, supply chains and business relationships;
  • Ensure that human rights defenders are consulted as part of any meaningful human rights and environmental due diligence process;
  • Recognize that human rights defenders are essential allies in assisting businesses to adhere to their responsibilities under the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and will be crucial to businesses under any binding legislation on mandatory human rights due diligence;
  • Publicly and frequently assert the right of human rights defenders to engage in their work and publicly condemn any threats or attacks against them that take place in the context of a company’s operations.