News story, 31.03.2014

Extended mandate for human rights defenders

On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a draft resolution introduced by Norway, and extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for a period of three years.

“All over the world, human rights defenders are being attacked on a daily basis for defending the rights of others. The work carried out by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders enhances the international community’s ability to react to human rights violations and oppression. The renewed mandate means that this work can continue,” said State Secretary Bård Glad Pedersen in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The UN’s efforts to protect human rights defenders are closely linked to its efforts to safeguard freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and to uncover human rights violations. For a number of years, Norway has taken particular responsibility for this issue in the UN.

“A number of countries are seeking to restrict the activities of human rights defenders. Many human rights defenders are therefore in need of protection due to their work to uncover the abuse of power on the part of national authorities and other actors,” said Mr Pedersen.

Human rights defenders are people and organisations who work to protect and promote human rights in a non-violent manner.

The resolution in the Human Rights Council emphasises the important work being carried out by human rights defenders at the international, regional and national levels, and expresses grave concerns with regard to the serious risks many of them face. The text of the resolution stresses that states are responsible for protecting all human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons, and that respect and support for the activities of human rights defenders is essential to the overall enjoyment of human rights. Furthermore, states are urged to take concrete steps to create, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment in which human rights defenders can operate freely.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders was extended by consensus, with 79 countries co-sponsoring the resolution. The broad support of the UN for this mandate is essential for achieving further progress in this area.