Last week the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association presented his report to the Third Committee of the General Assembly urging states and private sector to respect the exercise of human rights of those mobilising peacefully to address the climate crisis.
At the inter-sessional meeting on human rights and the 2030 Agenda held today at the UN Human Rights Council, ISHR delivered a statement emphasising the vital role defenders play in the implementation of the SDGs.
Panelists and speakers from the floor also emphasised that participation and inclusion of human rights defenders is key to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda.
The underpinning of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in international human rights norms and standards was also emphasised. The Danish Institute for Human Rights introduced a new tool linking the SDGs to recommendations from UN human rights mechanisms.
Read the full statement below:
Human rights defenders are indispensable to sustainable and inclusive development, as well as addressing poverty and inequality. Their protection is central for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
The Human Rights Council recognised their important role in supporting States to realise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the pledge that no one will be left behind and to reach the furthest behind first.
The Council stressed that defenders must be ensured a safe and enabling environment to undertake their work free from hindrance and insecurity.
This is absolutely central for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Attacks and restrictions against defenders and civic space, including freedoms of expression, assembly and association, run contrary to this goal.
ISHR remains highly concerned that paradoxically, some of the States who champion the right to development are also States that systematically restrict, repress and attack economic, social and cultural rights defenders.
States who continue to restrict civic space are moving in the wrong direction.
In the political declaration of the high-level political forum, world leaders affirmed their commitment to “build peaceful, just and inclusive societies and to respect, protect and fulfil human rights”.
The SDGs are underpinned by legally binding human rights norms and standards.
Their implementation requires a human-rights based approach and an inclusive and participatory process that ensures equality, non-discrimination and the full and effective participation of the population.
Defenders and independent civil society engage with their communities, governments, and non-State actors to push for the realisation of all human rights, which includes the SDGs.
ISHR calls on:
- Governments to take immediate steps to empower defenders and include them in the processes for following-up and monitoring of the implementation of the SDGs.
- All UN agencies, including but not limited to UNDP, to treat the Declaration on human rights defenders as of much of a ‘guiding star’ for their work as the SDGs themselves.
- The UN Secretary-General to lead the development and ensure the accountable implementation of a system-wide policy on the promotion and protection of human rights defenders, such as that already adopted by UN Environment, as a vital component of contributing to implementation of the SDGs.
Yesterday, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders presented her report at the General Assembly's Third Committee on the long-term detention of human rights defenders.
Today, UN member States elected members to the UN's top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, for the 2022-2024 term. 18 candidates ran for 18 seats, and all were elected, leaving civil society disappointed in a process that can hardly be called an election.
On 14 October 2021, the UK delivered a cross-regional statement on behalf of 80 countries, condemning intimidation and reprisals, and calling on States to prioritise and support the meaningful participation of civil society at the UN.
Futures thinking encourages us to identify small ‘signals of change’ which might help to identify and influence the futures that come to pass. At ISHR we’ve identified and, together with advocates and activists from around the world, helped contribute to a number of small but significant signals of positive human rights change in recent weeks.
ISHR together with 36 NGOs from around the world have called on member States of the UN General Assembly to sign on to a cross-regional joint statement on reprisals at the 76th session of the UNGA Third Committee.
Mozambique has accepted 236 of the 266 recommendations received. While this highlights a slight progress since their last Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the human rights situation in the country still needs large structural improvements.
During the adoption of the outcome of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, Niger manifested its willingness to cooperate with human rights mechanisms by accepting almost all the recommendations. However, more efforts for an efficient implementation remain necessary.
Despite Sierra Leone's acceptance of recommendations aiming to improve civil society’s space, cases of reprisals against human rights defenders are still reported.
The DRC has noticeably improved the protection of human rights in the Kasaï region but progress remains slow and action is still needed towards transitional justice and the protection of defenders in this region.
During the interactive dialogue with the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights on the SG’s Reprisals Report, some States raised specific cases of reprisals, whilst others drew attention to the use of COVID-19 as a guise under which reprisals were committed and also raised the additional risks to human rights defenders online as a result of the pandemic.
Defender Zhang Haitao's wife addressed the UN Human Rights Council on 20 September, after more than 1240 days without information about her husband's status. He is serving 19 years on 'national security'-related charges, punishing him for exercising freedom of speech.