HRDs being interviewed by journalists


COMMUNITIES ARE HRDs! PI’s Global Campaign | 20th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

28 May 2018

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.


Together for a different narrative on human rights defenders!

In the year that marks the 20th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on HRDs, we are experiencing an unprecedented backlash against human rights, which makes the environment surrounding defenders increasingly hostile.

In a context of smear campaigns against HRDs that legitimize attacks against them and foster impunity, Protection International wishes to contribute to a changed narrative on human rights defenders, towards a greater recognition of the collective aspect of their work and achievements.

Under the slogan and hashtag #CommunitiesareHRDs, we can build together a new narrative on HRDs where everybody can protect human rights and support human rights work. Human rights work is not done by ‘heroes’ but by ordinary people gathering together around a human rights cause.

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:

  • social groups living together
  • spontaneous and structured coalitions gathering around specific issues of concern
  • groups of people who share common identities, such as indigenous or LGBTIQ communities
  • professional categories (such as lawyers or journalists)
  • civil society organisations and movements

What we aim at

More specifically, Protection International aims to

  • mobilise all actors and notably decision makers to understand better and support a collective approach to human rights work
  • advocate for collective protection in public policies 
  • highlight the importance of women HRDs and their key role in communities
  • strengthen the human rights movement as a whole and empower collective groups to change the narrative on HRDs
  • promote an understanding on the UN Declaration on HRD and its link with other international human rights instruments


See below the list of activities around Protection International’s global campaign on the 20th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on HRDs

What is next for security and protection of human rights defenders? #rethinkingprotection

Last December 2017, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on HRDs, Protection International and the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) of the University of York organized an international roundtable to reflect collectively on the way security and protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) can be further strengthened. The event gathered HRDs, practitioners, academics, and policymakers from all continents,  allowing them to challenge established protection approaches, tools, and practices.

See the report and the video of the event here!

Human Rights Awards beyond heroes: the recognition of the collective dimension of human rights struggles 

Awards given to human rights defenders represent a fantastic acknowledgment of their work and an incomparable way to raise awareness of outstanding achievements. For their immense value, Protection International calls on 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, organizations, and movements


Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018

Protection International participates in the HRDs World Summit 2018, an event that will bring together a group of 150 HRDs from around the world. This international summit, which takes place on 29, 30, and 31 October in Paris, aims to celebrate HRDs’ work and the progress made in the last 2 decades, raise awareness about the threats HRDs are facing, and create a platform to build the strategies for an effective protection and a more enabling environment for human rights around the world in the next decades. #HRDWorldSummit  #WeAreAllDefenders  #CommunitiesareHRDs


The Criminalization of la Lucha in DRC at the European Parliament 

PI presented its report The Criminalization of Social Movements: The case of La Lucha in DRC at the European Parliament, in a public conference organized also by the European Network for Central Africa and MEP Marie Arena. It addresses two issues: the increasing criminalization of citizens’ movements and what role should the EU play in ensuring the protection of Congolese civil society actors. 


UN Complaint Procedures for HRDs: opportunities and limits

Pl is organizing a discussion on UN complaint procedures for HRDs, aiming to offer a space for exchange for all interested actors and to contribute to improving HRD-related protection mechanisms. On this occasion, Janika Spannagel, associate researcher at the Global Public Policy Institute, will present her key research findings on the functioning and impact of the complaint procedures before the UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs.

For Those Who Died Trying

Award-winning British freelance photographer Luke Duggleby tells the stories of people in Thailand who sacrificed their lives for their causes, who died trying to defend human rights, as part of a TEDxTalks in Khon Kaen. For Those Who Died Trying is a photo exhibition by Luke Duggleby and co-organized by Protection International and the Canadian embassy of Thailand, which presents photographs of 37 murdered or abducted human rights defenders in Thailand by placing a portrait of the victim, when possible at the exact place where they were murdered or went missing.



Protection International supports #IDefendRights, a new project launched by the Norwegian Human Rights Fund that aims to shift the narrative about Human Rights Defenders, by collecting their audio testimonies on their experiences on the front line to defend the human rights.

Listen to the stories here!

Women on the frontlines: Protection International at the European Development Days (EDD)

PI participates in the panel Women on the Frontlines, in the framework of the EDD. Organized also by Just Associates, the Fund for Global Human Rights, Mama Cash, and Urgent Action Fund, it aims to generate dialogue on how the human rights and development communities can collectively respond to the global crackdown on civil society and pushback on the restrictions women activists face that are hampering women’s equality and inclusion in sustainable development. 

Key publications 

During this very special year, Protection International releases key publications contributing to raising awareness on “collective protection”, on how to make progress for better public policies to protect human rights and for advancing the right to defend human rights.

Call for Action: Communities are HRDs!

Protection International acknowledges the great value of all awards given to HRDs. For that very reason, we wish to continue supporting them as much as we can. We also wish to contribute to their development by encouraging the nomination of more and more collective movements. 20 years after the adoption of the Declaration on HRDs, this would undoubtedly mark a new step forward.

The Criminalization of Social Movements: The case of La Lucha movement in Democratic Republic of Congo

Protection International (PI) launched its report on the criminalization of la Lucha, a citizen movement for the defense of human rights, exposing the characteristics and impacts of this criminalization on the members of the movement and on their communities and social networks, in particular context of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The Time is NOW – Effective public policies for the right to defend human rights

In view of the high number of attacks against human rights defenders in the Americas (and the rest of the world), ES TIEMPO YA – THE TIME IS NOW tries to find out what is going wrong with the national mechanisms and programs that several governments in the region have put in place to protect them. Protection International and CEJIL bring together their experience in the region and contribute with a novel approach, offering new possibilities to improve protection policies.

Collective Protection on Human Rights Defenders of the Right to Land and Territory – Conceptual Developments and Methodological Challenges

The high level of risk faced by HRDs, CSOs, and communities, particularly those living and operating in remote rural areas, the growing attention given to the issue of collective protection by Colombian jurisprudence; and the need to expand the focus of HRD protection beyond government programs, have motivated Protección International and Pensamiento y Acción Social (PAS) to undertake this research.


 Collective Protection of Human Rights Defenders ǀ A collective approach to the right to defend human rights                                                 

With the recent 20th anniversary of the UN declaration on Human Rights Defenders, much attention is currently focused on the indispensable work carried out by communities of human rights defenders across the globe. In this context, it is important to consider that human rights defenders do not usually work alone, but in groups, in association with others, in social movements, building collective networks, and supporting each other. Nevertheless, protection mechanisms tend to choose an individual HRD, a practice that can limit the impact of measures to a very narrow number of defenders and also undermine the collective dimension of human rights defense work.