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Human Rights Defenders Resolution: Joint Letter to Member States of the United Nations General Assembly

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To:  All Member States of the United Nations General Assembly


We are a group of human rights defenders and civil society organizations located across the world working at national, regional and international levels. We seek your clear support for the resolution entitled ”Human Rights Defenders in the context of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” adopted by the UN General Assembly Third Committee on 25 November 2015. The resolution is due to be considered by the Plenary of the General Assembly on 17 December 2015.

We urge your government to support the above mentioned resolution when the plenary of the General Assembly considers the text.

Despite the resolution being put to a vote for the first time in its 16 year history, the adoption of the text by a clear majority of States is a welcome recognition of the need to protect those who face risks and attacks for their work to defend human rights. We congratulate and thank the 117 delegations that voted in favour of the resolution and stood with human rights defenders by resisting attempts to undermine and delegitimise their important work. We urge those delegations to maintain their supportive position during the plenary vote, and thereby demonstrate their continued commitment to protecting human rights defenders and enabling their work.  We also call on all delegations who were absent during the Third Committee deliberations to vote in favour of the resolution when it is considered in the General Assembly Plenary.

We are extremely disappointed that 14 States voted against the text that a further 40 States abstained. We see both votes against the resolution and abstentions as a failure to recognize the important role of defenders and the need for their protection. We strongly urge those who abstained or voted against to support the resolution during the Plenary vote.

Human rights defenders make a vital contribution to the promotion and respect for human rights, democratic processes, securing and maintaining peace and security, and advancing development in our countries.  However, in doing this work, defenders often face a range of violations and abuses at the hands of State and non-State actors. States must acknowledge the role of defenders and the specific risks they face, and commit to ensuring their protection.

Seventeen years ago, all States agreed to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including State obligations to protect all human rights defenders working on all human rights.  This commitment has been reiterated and built upon in subsequent General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions. We are therefore extremely concerned that 14 States voted against the text and that a further 40 States abstained.

We urge all States to live up to their human rights commitments by supporting this resolution during the Plenary vote, and by taking concrete steps to protect human rights defenders.

Click here to download the letter with the full list of signatures.