The United Nations and Council of Europe continue to develop standards that protect and support human rights defenders.
Advocating for the international community to recognise the importance of human rights defenders – through such resolutions – is a priority for HRHF, as is working with Human Rights Houses to promote the implementation of resolutions at home.
In 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution on human rights defenders, which creates a favourable context for a positive narrative around human rights defenders and their achievements in 2018.
Coming at a crucial time for civil society and democracy, we launched the case study Resisting Ill Democracies in Europe, as this issue continues to spark important debates across Europe.
This work includes in-depth research into the “playbook” of illiberal governments at the country level, but the aim is broader: to identify common trends within ill democracies and build understanding to inform early action. The case study also offers practices and strategies for civil society to resist.
The study was published by seven human rights organisations – five of them part of the network of Human Rights Houses.
Human Rights House Baku opened in 2007. By 2015, the authorities had forced the House to cease activities (in 2011) and imprisoned many of its members, and adopted restrictive laws as part of a crackdown on civil society.
Human Rights House Foundation, with the Houses, campaigned long term for their release, channelling all of its programmes toward a single cause. In 2016 we saw its impact as several of our partners were released from prison.
Campaigning with the Houses, coalitions, and strong international partners, HRHF helped to raise awareness of the arrests and organised and participated in international protests against them.
HRHF achieved good progress towards greater visibility and influence on the human rights agenda in 2017. More than 70% of our advocacy efforts undertaken with the Human Rights Houses were followed up by interventions and actions by national and international policy makers, showing the targeted strength of our interventions. On top of this, our 15 rounds of advocacy enabled us to reach out to 412 policy- and decision-makers, double the number than in 2016. These advocacy rounds focused on country situations or on freedom of assembly, association, expression, and the right to be a human rights defender.
Our campaigns also contributed to our visibility and influence. Together with Human Rights Houses and partner NGOs, we published two joint reports and held launch events across Europe as part of campaigns on Ill Democracies and on Funding Civil Society.
Greater access to the international system makes national human rights defenders stronger at home and more protected. HRHF facilitated this access and raised the voice of human rights defenders in international fora in 2016.
The quality of information we produced significantly improved and our distribution channels broadened, enabling us to reach a larger audience to generate political support for human rights defenders.
With influence on the human rights agenda, we successfully supported the renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus, ensuring the continued work of the only independent international monitor of human rights in the country.
We also successfully advocated for the UN to adopt a resolution focused on human rights in Crimea, and for the EU to keep a principled human rights position, resulting in a strong resolution on Crimea by the European Parliament.
Following more than two years of advocacy, we saw strong international standards to protect human rights lawyers established at the UN, an essential development in protecting lawyers who promote and defend human rights defenders. We were also able to respond quickly to the deteriorating situation in Poland, raising threats to the rule of law at international fora. Seeking to have impact even in a repressive environment, we supported Azerbaijani human rights defenders to work with international human rights mechanisms.