Collective Protection of HRDs: PI & PAS publication is out!


Protection International, together with PAS, its Colombian partner, issue an innovative publication exploring more comprehensive approaches to protection for human rights defenders, particularly those defending the right to land and territory.

This report is a useful synthesis of the full study that was published in May 2017 in Spanish.

Open and download the report in English here.

You can also  browse through the report on Issuu:

Why such a research?

At least three elements motivated Pensamiento y Acción Social (PAS) and Protection International (PI)2 to undertake research on collective protection measures for human rights defenders (HRDs), civil society organisations (CSOs) and their communities struggling for the right to land and territory:

  1. The high level of risk being faced by HRDs, CSOs and communities, particularly those who live and operate in remote rural areas.
  2. Since 2015, the issue of collective protection has received growing attention both in Colombia’s jurisprudence and the human rights community.
  3. The need to expand the focus of HRD protection beyond the government- led protection programme, which has shown strong limitations in responding to the risks these community-based HRDs face.

This research aims at exploring a more comprehensive approach, reflecting the spirit of the UN Declaration on HRDs, to the protection of HRDs and community-based CSOs, particularly those based in remote, rural areas and linked to the defense of land and territory.

It entails understanding that collective protection corresponds to two specific types of social subjects:

  • formally (legally) constituted grassroots organisations
  • communities that organise themselves for the defense of their right to land and territory.

Background on collective protection in Colombia

Collective protection actions promoted by the Colombian State respond to the internal armed conflict and the forced displacement of rural populations. The understanding of collective protection in Colombia has thus emerged and evolved based on different situations experienced by the State, the communities, international stakeholders, and international cooperation agencies.

This report outlines the different protection responses that incorporate a collective dimension and explains how this dimension has evolved in time.

Between the late 1980s and the late 1990s, the notion of “collective” referred to a large group of individuals who shared one of the cruelest violations of human rights: internally forced displacement.

The number of internally displaced people in Colombia was estimated to 2 million between 1985 and 1999; in more recent estimations, the number may reach about 7 million victims.

Snapshot on the findings of the report

As addressed in the full version of this report (available in Spanish only), national public policies for the protection of rural communities and their associated CSOs defending the right to land and territory should not limit their collective protection response to a closed list of standard measures. The protection of collective subjects requires a complex response where different State authorities at different levels (from national to local Government) contribute to create and ensure a safe space for the defense of human rights. Strategies and measures to prevent and counter aggressions are dependent on thorough risk assessments that take into account territorial, social and personal dimensions; as the context is dynamic, threats and risk are also, thus requiring regular assessments.


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