We welcome the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr Michel Forst, to the 3rd Committee. We value his work and tireless efforts to raise the difficult situation of human rights defenders in several critical areas. The report presented today gives reasons for profound concern.
Human rights defenders can and should play a critical role in fostering corporate respect for human rights. We are appaled by the scale and character of attacks and threats facing defenders on the ground.
The report before us observes that “despite their important work, defenders are increasingly subject to attacks”. Sadly, we know that this is so becauseof their work.
This tells us several things. First, it speaks volumes of the courage and unselfishness that HRDs display in promoting the rights and values that we have all established. Second, it tells us that some business-interests and authorities take human rights defenders rather seriously, but sadly in a very wrong way. They are scared of their impact and feel that they have to kill human rights defenders or otherwise make them incapacitated. These are utterly cowardly acts, and an ultimate sign of weakness. The statistics are staggering, with more than 200 environmental defenders being murdered in 2016 alone. That is more than one environmental defender every other day.
The developments in this area are simply unacceptable, and the world will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs) if various voices in society are not allowed to promote these goals. The rights to freedom of opinion, espression, association and peaceful assembly are critical in this regard. Human rights defenders should be seen as a positive asset in society, not as a threat.
And here we would like to ask the special rapporteur a question: Does the special rapporteur have ideas on how to enhance further the public attention on the challenge before us ?
We thank the special rapporteur for his many relevant recommendations which can assist in the effective implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights.
We believe that the upcoming anniversary of the Declaration on human rights defenders in 2018 is an opportunity to advance the human rights work. We invite all delegations to join forces to this end by supporting the draft resolution on human rights defenders at this session.