Vital to protect human rights defenders

‘I am pleased we have succeeded in gaining broad support for the UN resolution on the protection of human rights defenders. It is vital that human rights defenders are able to carry out their work safely and without risk of reprisals if we are to build sustainable, open and democratic societies,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

The negotiations on the draft resolution were led by Norway, and the resolution was approved by a large majority in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the UN General Assembly in New York yesterday evening. A total of 117 countries voted in favour of the resolution, 14 countries voted against, and there were 40 abstentions. In the resolution text, the UN expresses grave concern about the increasing extent to which human rights defenders and their families are threatened, stigmatised, subjected to reprisals and violence, or even killed, and about the prevalence of impunity for violations and abuses against them in many countries. The text also strongly urges the release of human rights defenders who have been detained or imprisoned.

‘The intensity of the negotiations reflects the increasing pressure on human rights globally, and on human rights defenders in particular. Human rights defenders are a resource for all societies, not a threat,’ said Mr Brende.

The resolution enjoys broad support in the UN, and had 74 co-sponsors from all over the world. This is the highest number of co-sponsors ever.

‘We are seeing setbacks for human rights in many areas of the world today. This calls for intensified efforts on our part. We need to cooperate across geographical regions, cultures and religions to promote and safeguard human rights and all those who defend them. I am therefore delighted that a record high number of countries from all regions of the world joined us in sponsoring this important resolution,’ said Mr Brende.

Protection of human rights defenders is a key priority for Norway, as reflected in the Government’s white paper on human rights. Our overall objective is for human rights defenders to be able to carry out the work of promoting and defending human rights in all parts of the world without restrictions or threats to themselves or their families.

The Resolution was adopted by the General Assembly on 17 December 2015. Read the resolution here.