20th anniversary of UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders starts with crucial draft resolution in the GA

November 1, 2017

9 December 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary of the ‘UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms‘ (in short the UN Declaration on HRDs).  The General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have over the years adopted annual resolutions, informed by reports by the Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. However, as this blog and many others can testify, human rights defenders continue to face severe risks and are increasingly targets of actions taken by state and/or non-state actors in violation of the Declaration.  As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Declaration, the Norwegian delegation has just now tabled a draft resolution at the 72nd session of the General Assembly. The text is not officially out yet but the main new elements in the draft resolution are:

  • a high level meeting on HRDs in the General Assembly in New York next year, and
  • a request to the UN Secretary General/OHCHR to put together a comprehensive report on what UN can do to assist States.

Secretary-General Guterres should have no problem accepting such a request as he stated in the Human Rights Council on 27 February this year: “…To human rights defenders, I say: thank you for your courage. The United Nations is on your side. And I am on your side. I remind Member States of their responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders can operate without fear of intimidation.” [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/28/new-secretary-general-at-human-rights-council-tells-human-rights-defenders-and-i-am-on-your-side/]

The UN Mission of Norway is as usual in the lead in getting this resolution adopted, while facing the danger of hostile amendments. [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/23/norwegian-resolution-un-human-rights-council-defenders-amendments/]. They have their work cut out and any help in lobbying for this new draft would be most welcome. The text of the draft resolution as tabled follows below (it should be issued soon as an “L” document) in which I have highlighted operative paragraphs 14-17.

Draft resolution – version for tabling

20th Anniversary Promotion of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms[1]

The General Assembly,

PP1 Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

 PP2 Guided also by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights and other relevant instruments,

 PP3 Recalling its resolution 53/144 of 9 December 1998, by which it adopted by consensus the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,

PP4 Recalling also all other previous resolutions on this subject, including its resolutions 66/164 of 19 December 2011, 68/181 of 18 December 2013 and 70/161 of 17 December 2015, and Human Rights Council resolutions 22/6 of 21 March 2013, 31/32 of 24 March 2016 and 34/5 of 23 March 2017,

PP5 Reaffirming that States have the primary responsibility and are under the obligation to protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons,

PP6 Stressing in this regard that all human rights and fundamental freedoms apply to all persons, including human rights defenders in the context of the Declaration, and that these rights and freedoms must be respected, protected and fulfilled without discrimination,

PP7 Reaffirming the importance of the Declaration and its implementation, and that promoting respect and support for the activities of human rights defenders is essential to the overall enjoyment of human rights,

PP8 Underscoring the positive, important and legitimate role of human rights defenders in promoting and advocating the realization of all human rights, at the local, national, regional and international levels, including by engaging with Governments and contributing to the efforts in the implementation of the obligations and commitments of States in this regard,

 PP9 Welcoming the steps taken by some States to create a safe and enabling environment for the promotion, protection and defense of human rights, and recognizing the positive efforts by States, national human rights institutions and civil society towards the development and enactment of national policies, laws, programmes and practices in this regard,

 PP10 Recognizing the substantial role that human rights defenders can play in supporting efforts to strengthen conflict prevention, peace and development through dialogue, openness, participation and justice, including by monitoring, reporting on and contributing to the promotion and protection of all civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, and the right to development, and in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,

PP11 Gravely concerned by the considerable and increasing number of allegations and communications received by UN special procedures and other mechanisms of a serious nature of the risks and dangers faced by human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, online and offline, and the prevalence of impunity for violations and abuses against them in many countries, where they face threats, harassment and attacks and suffer insecurity, including through restrictions on the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, association or peaceful assembly, as well as the right to privacy, or abuse of criminal or civil proceedings, or acts of intimidation and reprisal intended to prevent their cooperation with the United Nations and other international bodies in the field of human rights,

PP12 Mindful that domestic law and administrative provisions and their application should facilitate the work of human rights defenders, including by avoiding any criminalization, stigmatization, impediments, obstructions or restrictions thereof contrary to the obligations and commitments of States under international human rights law,

PP13 Underscoring that the legal framework within which human rights defenders work peacefully to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms is that of national legislation consistent with the Charter and international human rights law,

PP14 Gravely concerned that, in some instances, national security and counter-terrorism legislation and other measures, such as laws regulating civil society organizations, have been misused to target human rights defenders or have hindered their work and endangered their safety in a manner contrary to international law,

PP15 Recognizing the urgent need to address, and to take concrete steps to prevent and stop, the use of legislation to hinder or limit unduly the ability of human rights defenders to exercise their work, including by reviewing and, where necessary, amending relevant legislation and its implementation in order to ensure compliance with international human rights law,

 PP16 Strongly reaffirming that everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels, as laid out in the Declaration, and encouraging, in view of the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration, leaders in all sectors of society and in their respective communities, including political, military, social and religious leaders and leaders in business and the media, to express public support for human rights defenders in society, including women human rights defenders, and, in cases of threat, harassment, violence, discrimination, racism and other violations and abuses committed against them, including killings, to take a clear stance in rejection of such practices and offenses,

 

  1. Stresses that the right of everyone to promote and strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms without retaliation or fear thereof is an essential element in building and maintaining sustainable, open and democratic societies;

 

  1. Calls upon all States to take all measures necessary to ensure the rights and safety of all persons, including human rights defenders, who exercise the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association, which are essential for the promotion and protection of human rights;

 

  1. Welcomes the work and takes note of the report A/72/170 of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and also takes note of the report A/HRC/36/31 of the Secretary General on Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights;

 

  1. Urges States to acknowledge through public statements, policies, programmes or laws the important and legitimate role of individuals, groups and organs of society, including human rights defenders, in the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law as essential components of ensuring their recognition and protection, including by condemning publicly all cases of violence and discrimination against human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, underlining that such practices can never be justified;

 

  1. Encourages partnerships and collaboration between States, civil society and other stakeholders in promoting, protecting and realizing all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including through consultative bodies, focal points within the public administration, national human rights mechanisms for reporting or follow up, or measures aimed at enhancing the recognition in society of the valuable role played by human rights defenders, while fully recognizing the importance of the independent voice of human rights defenders and other civil society actors;

 

  1. Underlines the value of national human rights institutions, established and operating in accordance with the Paris Principles, in the continued monitoring of existing legislation and consistently informing the State about its impact on the activities of human rights defenders, including by making relevant and concrete recommendations;

 

  1. Strongly condemns the violence against and the targeting, criminalization, intimidation, torture, disappearance, and killing of any individuals, including human rights defenders, for reporting and seeking information on human rights violations and abuses, and stresses the need to combat impunity by ensuring that those responsible for violations and abuses against human rights defenders, including against their legal representatives, associates and family members, are promptly brought to justice through impartial investigations;

 

  1. Condemns all acts of intimidation and reprisal by State and non-State actors against individuals, groups and organs of society, including against human rights defenders and their legal representatives, associates and family members, who seek to cooperate, are cooperating or have cooperated with sub-regional, regional and international bodies, including the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms, in the field of human rights;

 

  1. Calls upon States to take concrete steps to prevent and put an end to arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders, and in this regard strongly urges the release of persons detained or imprisoned, in violation of the obligations and commitments of States under international human rights law, for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, including in relation to cooperation with the United Nations or other international mechanisms in the area of human rights;

 

  1. Strongly reaffirms the urgent need to respect, protect, facilitate and promote the work of those promoting and defending economic, social and cultural rights, as a vital factor contributing towards the realization of those rights, including as they relate to environmental, land and indigenous issues as well as development, including through corporate accountability;

 

  1. Continues to express particular concern about systemic and structural discrimination and violence faced by women human rights defenders of all ages, and reiterates its strong call upon States to take appropriate, robust and practical steps to protect women human rights defenders and to integrate a gender perspective into their efforts to create a safe and enabling environment for the defence of human rights, as called for by the General Assembly in its resolution 68/181;

 

  1. Urges non-State actors, including transnational corporations and other business enterprises, to respect and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons, including human rights defenders, and underlines the need to ensure accountability and adequate remedies by transnational corporations and other business enterprises, while also urging States to adopt relevant policies and laws in this regard, including to hold all companies to account for involvement in threats or attacks against human rights defenders;

 

  1. Welcomes the steps taken by some States to promote and give effect to the Declaration, as well as by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and some regional organizations in making the Declaration available and known to all stakeholders at the national and local levels in their respective languages, and underlines the need to promote and give full effect to the Declaration;

 

  1. Decides to devote one high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly, within existing resources, at its seventy-third session on the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration with a view to give impetus to its promotion in all regions, and requests the President of the General Assembly to conduct consultations with Member States in order to determine the modalities for that meeting;

 

  1. Encourages all parts of the international community, in view of the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration, including States, national human rights institutions, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in cooperation with relevant parts of the UN system, relevant regional organizations, and civil society actors, to initiate and take part in awareness raising activities at the local, national, regional and international level, to promote and support the Declaration and its implementation, and invites all stakeholders to report thereon to the General Assembly at its seventy-third session, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a compilation thereof for the high-level meeting referred to in paragraph 14 above;

 

  1. Requests the Secretary-General, in view of the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration, to undertake a comprehensive assessment and analysis of progress and challenges related to the ways by which the Office of the High Commissioner as well as other relevant United Nations bodies, offices, departments and specialized agencies, including at the country level, within their respective mandates, can give due consideration to the Declaration and take into account the reports of the Special Rapporteur and assist States in strengthening the role and security of human rights defenders as called for by the General Assembly in its resolutions 62/152 (2007), 64/163 (2009), 66/164 (2011), 68/181 (2013) and 70/161 (2015), recognizing that technical assistance and capacity building are provided in consultation with and with the consent of Member States concerned;

 

  1. Requests also the Secretary-General, as part of that assessment and analysis, to identify good practices related to the provision of technical assistance and capacity building by relevant parts of the United Nations system in accordance with paragraph 16 above, including examples of positive impact or change as well as challenges related to the support to States in the implementation of relevant human rights obligations and commitments;

 

  1. Requests further the Secretary-General to undertake his assessment and analysis in cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and in consultation with States, other relevant Special Procedures mandate holders, relevant Treaty Bodies, relevant United Nations offices, departments and specialized agencies, including at the country level, as well as national human rights institutions and civil society, and to present the results of this assessment and analysis, in a study, containing conclusions and recommendations for effective technical assistance and capacity building, to the General Assembly at its seventy-third session, including the high level meeting referred to in paragraph 14 above;

 

  1. Requests all concerned United Nations agencies and organizations, within their mandates, to provide all possible assistance and support to the Special Rapporteur for the effective fulfilment of his mandate, including in the context of country visits and through suggestions on ways and means of ensuring the protection of human rights defenders;

 

  1. Requests the Special Rapporteur to continue to report annually on his activities to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, in accordance with the mandate;

 

  1. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

[1] Commonly referred to as the Declaration on human rights defenders

——————–

 

2 Responses to “20th anniversary of UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders starts with crucial draft resolution in the GA”


  1. […] 20 November 2017 (as hoped see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/01/20th-anniversary-of-un-declaration-on-human-rights-defe…) the UN Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York unanimously endorsed the free and […]


  2. […] the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders coming up on 9 December 2018 [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/01/20th-anniversary-of-un-declaration-on-human-rights-defe…], the article above makes good […]


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