OSCE message for Human Rights Day: human rights defenders will lead in 2021

December 15, 2020

(Alex Tait/ Creative Commons 4.0)

On 10 December 2020, Human Rights Day, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) issued a statement “The brave people strengthening human rights in 2020 will lead us out of adversity“. A bit belatedly. I reproduce here OSCE paying “tribute to human rights defenders and many organizations across the OSCE region that have protected our rights throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and will have a key role to play if the global recovery is to put respect for human rights at its core

OSCE states have long recognized the important role played by human rights defenders in ensuring full respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law.  Throughout the pandemic, numerous organizations, initiatives and activists have worked hard to lessen the suffering caused by the health crisis. They have exposed gaps in responses to the health emergency and drawn attention to the undermining of human rights standards and democratic values in the name of public safety.​​

As public emergencies were introduced across the OSCE region and human rights and freedoms of millions of people were restricted, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) as well as civil society organizations were swift to hold accountable those states that were using vaguely defined regulations to bypass human rights obligations and lower standards. In addition to their regular monitoring activities, NHRIs were often quick and resourceful in developing solutions and disseminating key information to the public when it was needed. 

A spirit of dialogue and compromise, the ability to combat systematic inequality and exclusion, and the will to overcome ever-deepening polarization, are hard to imagine without a strong and vibrant civil society. But in many places across the OSCE region, pressure on civic space is increasing. This takes many forms, from legislation restricting the activities of civil society to smear campaigns against human rights defenders and journalists.

Despite their commitment – or because of it – many courageous human rights defenders across the OSCE region have been the brunt of attacks in 2020. They have faced threats and intimidation, frequently initiated by national authorities, as well as funding cuts and risks to their data security and privacy.

Two years ago, ODIHR launched its first ever targeted assessments on the situation of human rights defenders. Early next year, ODIHR will publish trends and recommendations based on an analysis of almost 250 discussions across five OSCE countries. The report will identify gaps and challenges in the protection of human rights defenders, as well as highlighting good practices so countries can learn from each other as they seek to rebuild societies overwhelmed by the challenges of the pandemic. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/12/11/human-rights-day-2014-odihr-director-link-wants-to-move-from-words-to-deeds-for-human-rights-defenders-in-the-osce/]

Today, ODIHR wants to thank all those brave people across the OSCE region who are committed to safeguarding the human rights of us all. The Office will continue to support and work with them towards this ultimate goal.

https://www.osce.org/odihr/473352

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