Human Rights House Foundation


Image: Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders 
Copyright: Jeff Vize /

Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders

UN shows strong support for human rights defenders

States at the United Nations Human Rights Council show strong support by unanimously renewing the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders.

Thursday, 23 March 2017, by

Florian Irminger, Head of Advocacy at HRHF, stressed the importance of the mandate: “Amid a climate in which human rights defenders are increasingly under threat, this mandate is needed more than ever, as is unanimous support for it. We work in a reality in which many governments attack and threaten human rights defenders. The less space we have to work at home, the more we need to have internationally, and the more we need international voices to support our work.”

The adopted resolution, negotiated and led by Norway, renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of three years. Michel Forst will remain as the mandate holder, to which he was appointed in 2014. Speaking recently at the UN Human Rights Council, he noted that defenders are under “unprecedented attack” with “the number killed around the world continuously rising.” 

“The importance of the mandate is shown by the opposition to it. Almost 20 years since the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders was adopted, we continue to be under threat, and some States openly attack the mechanisms set up to protect human rights defenders and contest the term ‘human rights defender’ itself,” continued Florian Irminger.

During deliberations on the resolution in recent weeks, 85 civil society organisations, coming from all regions, issued a joint statement led by the International Service for Human Rights urging delegations to support the renewal of the mandate. Despite this, States led by the Russia, China and Cuba sought to weaken the resolution.

The UK delegation, on behalf of co-sponsors of the resolution, expressed disappointment at the number of amendments proposed, stating that they were “designed to undermine the legitimacy of human rights defenders all over the world.”

UN resolutions on human rights defenders

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. The mandate for the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders was created in 2000, to strengthen the implementation of the declaration and be a voice to support the work of human rights defenders.

The UN adopted a resolution in support of human rights defenders in 2015. This recognised threats against human rights defenders on social media and the need to provide protections for family members and legal representatives of human rights defenders, who are increasingly under pressure in repressive States.

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on women human rights defenders on 4 November 2013. This resolution expresses concern over the systemic and structural discrimination and violence faced by women human rights defenders, and urges States to adopt gender-specific laws and policies to protect women human rights defenders.

Image: UN shows strong support for human rights defenders

Page navigation