ISHR staff at the Human Rights Council 2020

© Ben Buckland

Support defenders

ISHR supports human rights defenders in their work by strengthening their capacity and expertise, reinforcing their protection and recognition under international law and seeking to protect them from reprisals, restrictive environments and threats.

The work of human rights defenders is essential to promote and protect human rights and the rule of law. Since 1984, ISHR has made a deep commitment to supporting human rights defenders in a comprehensive way. At that time already, ISHR had started work to develop an international Declaration of Human Rights Defenders that was eventually adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1998. 

Today, we support and stand in solidarity with diverse groups of human rights defenders, for instance defenders of women rights, LGBTIQ+ rights, migrants and refugees rights, environmental rights, and more. We also take a special stand to assist human rights defenders who are in highly restrictive environments or at most risks.

We provide opportunities, support and knowledge to strengthen human rights defenders’ capacity, including access to high quality research and analysis, tailored training and capacity building services, legal advice and strategic litigation assistance, and advocacy support. With ISHR, human rights defenders build an unparalleled network to amplify their voices and receive all the useful tools they need to adopt the best strategies to reach their goals on the ground and on the international scene.

How we support human rights defenders

Based on our longstanding expertise of human rights mechanisms and our closeness to the needs of human rights defenders, we developed a Toolbox for defenders. It includes:

  • Trainings: ISHR provides training and advocacy advice to defenders both online and offline. Online, check out the ISHR Academy, our e-learning space to strengthen advocacy skills with the UN. With both online and offline components, HRDAP, our flagship programme, helps defenders leverage the UN to reach their advocacy objectives. We also provide Defender Fellowships.
  • Resources: guidebooks, research and reports on specific human rights issues.
  • HRCnet: a network to enhance NGO engagement with the Human Rights Council and to strengthen the Council’s impact and influence on the ground..
  • Model Law on the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  • And much more.

Key data about the people we support.

  • 17 141

    Number of people accessing information and support through the ISHR Academy in 2022

  • 1 145

    Number of human rights defenders to whom ISHR provided training or advocacy support in 2022

  • 19

    Number of human rights defenders enrolled in ISHR's flagship Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme in 2022

David Yambio about ISHR's Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme

David Yambio about ISHR's Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme

David participated in our flagship hybrid programme in 2023. ‘HRDAP helps you to envision in a strategic way the world you want to see as a defender. Everything on the virtual and in-person course was really detailed and easy to navigate, and I liked the way our coaches were interacting with us at a human level’, he says. ‘Coming to Geneva made me also realize that I am not the only one who is fighting for recognition for a better treatment of my community and that the UN are also made States run by people you can talk to'.

Read about David