Protection in practice for women human rights defenders and their work

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

New York, 9 March 2015

Norway’s State Secretary Hans Brattskar at the CSW side event 'Protection in practice for women human rights defenders' in New York 9 March 2015.

Thank you for the introduction, Ivan.

The protection of women human rights defenders is a subject of great significance and it is an honour for me to be among so many prominent advocates for this cause. The efforts of human rights defenders are invaluable to promote and protect human rights and the rule of law.

Statssekretær Hans Brattskar holdt åpningsinnlegg på et arrangement om kvinnelige menneskerettighetsforkjempere i New York 9. mars 2015.
Statssekretær Hans Brattskar holdt åpningsinnlegg på et arrangement om kvinnelige menneskerettighetsforkjempere i New York 9. mars 2015. Credit: Line Fjærvoll / FN-delegasjonen

Unfortunately, the situation for human rights defenders is, in many countries, alarming. The resolution adopted in 2013 was a vital step in the right direction. It established principles and standards for States to create an enabling environment for human rights defenders.

Women human rights defenders play a crucial role in the development agenda, as they relate to the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals in society. We also know that women human rights defenders face particular challenges and difficulties. They are vulnerable to violence and sexual abuse and they experience discrimination because of the historical and structural inequalities in power relations in their societies. Often, their families and dependents are threatened as well.

Protecting human rights defenders has for a long time been an important priority for Norway. We are happy to have led the negotiations resulting in the resolution on protecting women human rights defenders. And we show continued support to the agenda. In Norway’s recent white paper on human rights, we commit to continue our strong efforts to protect women human rights defenders within the UN. We also commit to increase the support to regional initiatives and other initiatives to protect human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders.

The resolution on protecting women human rights defenders prescribes a number of steps to be taken by states to prevent violence, violations and abuses against anyone who defends the human rights of women.

We have committed ourselves to implementing special measures to protect women human rights defenders. We have agreed that it is unacceptable to criminalize, stigmatize or curtail the work of these defenders. We have agreed to prevent and stop the use of national laws to hinder or limit their work. We have also agreed to review and amend national legislation that is inconsistent with international human rights law.

Furthermore, the resolution calls on all states to ensure protection of women human rights defenders from intimidation or reprisals when they cooperate with international institutions as well as regional and international human rights mechanisms.

15 months on since the resolution was adopted. Where are we now? There have been several initiatives, at both national and regional level, to ensure the resolutions practical implementation. Regrettably, the Special Rapporteur notes with concern the resurgence of reprisals against human rights defenders.

I am therefore pleased to see a high turn out here, underlining the relevance of this theme. It is important that we continue to give attention to this principle topic.

The resolution is a significant step in the right direction. The challenge, however, is to find the best ways to reduce the gap between the obligations of states and the realities on the ground in terms of protecting women human rights defenders.

This important side event underlines the importance of listening to the ones working on the ground defending human rights. It gives us the opportunity to exchange experiences, discuss challenges and share good practices with regards to protection mechanisms and other measure to create an enabling environment for human rights defenders.

The panel today consists of people who know what it means to protect women human rights defenders on the ground. They are human rights defenders themselves. And they represent the voices that are so important that we listen to.

I look forward to hearing the opinions of the panelists and to the discussion on how we together can ensure the resolutions practical implementation in support of women human rights defenders.

Thank you.

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  • More on the webpage to the Mission of Norway to the UN here