Appeal to state delegations to support resolution on human rights defenders
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee appealed to Missions to the UN to support resolution on human rights defenders, which comes up for vote in the UN General Assembly on the 17 December. The resolution contains a strong message to the world’s governments that they should support and protect human rights defenders; not attack them. The appeal was backed with signatures of people from across the world.
Dear ambassador, Head of Mission to the UN,
With this letter we appeal to you and your delegation to support the resolution on human rights defenders, which comes up for vote in the UN General Assembly on 17 December.
The resolution is based on the 1998 UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It does not create new rights or privileges for human rights defenders. It simply states that they are entitled to exactly the same rights as all people.
Behind this appeal is not only the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, but hundreds of people across the world who signed a petition that urges states to support the resolution. A list of people signing the petition is attached.
The exact title of the resolution is ”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”. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly Third Committee on 25 November 2015.
For the first time in its 16 years history, the resolution was not adopted by consensus. On the initiative of China and Russia, the resolution was put to vote. In the vote 117 states supported the resolution, 14 states voted against, while 40 abstained. About 20 states did not take part in the vote.
It is difficult to understand why states withhold support for human rights defenders. These are people who in peaceful ways promote the same human rights as the states of the world have adopted in the framework of the UN. The resolution simply asks state authorities to support and protect persons and organizations, which in different ways contribute to the translation of the international human rights norms into domestic legislation and practices.
It is among the paradoxes of our time that those who engage in assisting the UN and state as well as non-state actors in making human rights a reality for all people are under attack in many parts of the world.
There is no doubt, unfortunately, that human rights defenders really need all the support they can get from the UN. They need that your delegation supports the resolution.
In our reading, the resolution contains a strong message to the world’s states that they should support and protect human rights defenders. Importantly, it also addresses business corporations, religious leaders and other influential actors. They should be supportive as well.
The resolution says that promoting respect and support for the activities of human rights defenders “is essential to the overall enjoyment of human rights”. Human rights defenders, including everybody who engages in peaceful promotion of human rights or documentation of violations of human rights, are agents for positive change. They advocate open and inclusive societies. They are at the forefront in the struggle for a better future, achieving development goals set by national governments, regional organizations and the UN, preventing conflict and protecting vulnerable groups of society.
One of the great success stories of the UN is that it managed to foster universal consensus on the contents of human rights. It made human rights into binding international law. The UN also said that everybody should know about their rights and act upon them. If a state violates human rights, it needs to be corrected.
That’s why the world need human rights defenders. They contribute to a better world.
We therefore urge you to send a signal that your delegation, and indeed your state, supports human rights defenders. The failure of some states to support the resolution in the Third Committee unfortunately created a picture that these states do not fully support the purposes and principles of the UN.
Now is the time to show support.
Bjørn Engesland Gunnar Ekeløve-Slydal
Secretary General Deputy Secretary General