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International community joins Norway in supporting human rights defenders

UN Member States unanimously endorsed the free and independent role of human rights defenders at the UN today. The draft resolution was put forward by Norway, which chaired the negotiations.

 ‘The international community has sent a strong signal. Human rights defenders have a key role to play in strengthening respect for human rights all around the world,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide.

The draft resolution was put forward by Norway, which chaired the negotiations. The resolution was adopted by consensus in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York. In addition to Norway 75 countries co-sponsored the resolution. The draft resolution was developed in close consultation with civil society.

Read the resolution here (.pdf).

The resolution condemns the criminalization, curtailing and killing of human rights defenders. It and calls for the release of all those who have been imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of speech and other fundamental freedoms. This is the first time that UN Member States have unanimously agreed to send such a clear and powerful message on the need to protect human rights defenders.

Norway's Deputy Permanent Representative May-Elin Stener introduced the resolution on human rights defenders in Third Committee. (Photo: NorwayUN/Thea Herstad Moen)

Read also: Norway's introduction to the resolution on Human Rights Defenders

In order to build on this important development, the UN will convene a high-level meeting on the situation of human rights defenders, and the UN Secretary-General has been requested to strengthen the UN’s role in protecting human rights defenders.

‘I’m pleased that we have achieved consensus on a strong UN resolution on protection of human rights defenders. They are our champions in the fight against those who are seeking to undermine universal human rights,’ said Ms Eriksen Søreide.

She also thanked all partners and civil society organisations all over the world for their support in making this resolution possible.

Many of those who stand up to defend rights face grave risks. Studies show that a human rights defender working on environmental issues is killed every other day. The international community cannot stand by and let this happen. Without strong advocates for human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals, it will not be possible for the world’s marginalised groups, including indigenous peoples, to benefit from the 2030 Agenda.

‘This resolution has been the subject of tough negotiations and has been voted on for several years. The fact that all the UN member states have reached consensus on a significant and substantive resolution is a great victory. This gives an important signal to all human rights defenders that states should see them as a resource rather than a threat. It is time to recognise the positive role played by human rights defenders in building sustainable, open and democratic societies,’ said Ms Eriksen Søreide.

The protection of human rights defenders is an important priority for Norway, and our policy is based on the 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.