Resolution on environmental human rights defenders adopted in UN Human Rights Council

A Norwegian-led resolution on environmental human rights defenders was adopted by consensus in the UN Human Rights Council yesterday. "I am very pleased that we have succeeded in reaching agreement on a strongly worded text, in such a complex area," said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide.

For 20 years, Norway has led the work on the annual resolutions on human rights defenders.

"This year’s Human Rights Council resolution recognises the important role played by human rights defenders in promoting protection of the environment and building and safeguarding sustainable, open and democratic societies," said Ms Eriksen Søreide.

Many of those who defend both their own rights and the rights of others do so at great risk to themselves. This applies particularly to environmental human rights defenders. The organisation Global Witness documented that over 200 environmental human rights defenders were killed in 2017 – a record high number. Unfortunately, the situation is deteriorating.

The resolution is the first to focus specifically on environmental human rights defenders. It strongly condemns the killing of environmental human rights defenders, and calls for the release of all those who have been detained or imprisoned for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Further, it expresses grave concern about the situation of environmental human rights defenders, including women and indigenous human rights defenders.

The resolution was adopted by consensus. In addition, it was co-sponsored by 60 countries from all parts of the world. Ms Eriksen Søreide has expressed her gratitude to all partners and civil society organisations throughout the world for their efforts in support of this resolution.

"The fact that all UN member states have reached consensus on a strong resolution in support of environmental human rights defenders is a great victory. This sends a clear signal that human rights defenders are not to be viewed as a threat by states or non-state actors, but rather as a resource that must be protected. Human rights defenders play a crucial role in our efforts to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals," 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 to ensure that human rights defenders can promote and defend human rights in all parts of the world without hindrance, and without facing threats to themselves or their families.