Together for a different narrative: COMMUNITIES are also human rights defenders!

AWARDS TO HRDs: Protection International promotes the recognition of the collective dimension of human rights work

We are celebrating this year 2018 the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders, a fundamental tool for the protection and recognition of human rights defenders. For Protection International, this is the occasion to make a step forward in the protection of human rights defenders and call for the long-needed recognition of the collective dimension of human rights work.

As part of its global campaign "Communities are human rights defenders!" around the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders, Protection International aims to promote the recognition of the collective dimension of human rights defenders’ work and achievements through the many and all valuable awards given to HRDs.

Awards given to human rights defenders represent a fantastic acknowledgement of human rights defenders' work and an incomparable way to raise awareness on outstanding people and their struggles. For their immense value, Protection International calls on all protection actors and award-giving entities to go beyond the recognition of individual heroic figures of individual HRDs and promote collective human rights awards that strengthen communities, organisations and movements.

 

Together to change the narrative on human rights defenders!

#CommunitiesareHRDs

What we mean by "communities"

Our campaign's slogan "Communities are HRDs!" refers to communities as collective groups in a broad sense, i.e. groups fighting together for and defending the respect of human rights. They are:

  • social groups living together
  • spontanous coalitions against specific measures or projects (of concerned citizens, organisations, fishermen, lawyers, journalists, etc)
  • specific communities of people such as e.g. the LGBTIQ community

 

What you can do

If you are part of:

Read Protection International's CALL FOR ACTION

Why is collective protection fundamental?

  • HRDs rarely work as individuals but as part of groups, should the latter be communities, grassroots organizations, or NGOs. Because together means stronger, protection is largely ensured by the collective and relational work carried out by HRDs. 
  • Considering HRDs only as isolated individuals leads to cutting them off their social fabric that allows them to fight for and maintain their rights.
  • Giving visibility to the root causes and the struggles: If giving a human face to a cause can be seen as having a bigger impact onto the general public, it can also have counterproductive implications for the community: it risks focusing on the individual’s personal story instead of giving visibility to the communities’ struggles and to the root causes of these struggles. Secondly, it also risks disrupting the community itself, by de facto distancing the individual from the community.
  • Putting the emphasis on individual and vertical leadership may contribute to increasing risks for individuals and communities.
  • Raising the profile of leaders can make them an easier target.
  • Collective protection allows better to take into account the contextual factors and the environment of the defenders.

Individual and collective protection are interrelated

Awards given to human rights defenders represent a fantastic acknowledgement of human rights defenders' work and an incomparable way to raise awareness on outstanding people and their struggles. For their immense value, Protection International calls on all protection actors and award-giving entities to go beyond the recognition of individual heroic figures of individual HRDs and promote collective human rights awards that strengthen communities, organisations and movements.​

Protection International here below explains why promoting collective protection is simply... indispensable!

Collective protection is indispensable to the strengthening of social movements and deeply interlinked to the specificities of the local contexts, of the groups or communities and to their internal capacities to resist. However, individual protection (i.e. the protection of leaders or individual persons at a moment of particular or imminent risk) still needs to be taken into account, including in the collective protection approach for communities. If, for instance, the strength of the social fabric in Latin America makes it easier to work on collective protection, in other contexts where communities are not immediately visible to outsiders, individuals can represent entry points into communities.

Should protection be individual or collective, it will always be relational. This implies that the protection of a specific individual depends on the actions of other people, including, for instance, protecting her/his family, close colleagues or community neighbours.

Individual and collective protections are interrelated because protection is always for, against, and from someone, for the following reasons:

  • the strong link between individuals and communities. Whenever a community leader is affected, so is the whole community, and vice-versa;
  • Individualised and vertical leadership increases risks;
  • Raising the profile of leaders, which is often used to the political cost of aggressions, can also turn them into an easier target;
  • Strengthening the capacity of communities, their social fabric and their organisational capacities is fundamental.
  • When communities have a strong social fabric, they increase their capacity to take collective action, which decreases the level of risk.

For more information, see:

 

Watch! Raising awareness on and promoting collective protection: the case of the small-scale farming communities Magdalena region in Colombia

Protection Network: Farmers defending their territory in the Magdalena Medio region from Protection International on Vimeo.

By shedding light only on the iconic achievements of individual HRDs, we often make them more vulnerable by weakening their connection with their constituency and exposing them as individuals and increasing pressure. This is why PI advocates for protection actors to go beyond individual heroic figures of individual HRDs and encourage collective human rights awards which strengthen communities, organisations and movements. ” - Liliana de Marco Coenen, Director of Protection International.

For more information on this initiative, please contact ao [at] protectioninternational.org