“When I come to countries, I regularly get asked “what can you do for us?” says Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur for the Freedom of Assembly and Association, telling about his encounters with human rights defenders at risk around the world.
The Special Rapporteur tells the 7th Front Line’s Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders his default answer: “I cannot do it for you – you do it. You need to stick out your neck for human rights. If there’s no one willing or capable to defend human rights, then don’t turn to the international community to do it instead. Once you stand up for the rights of yourselves or others, then the internationals will come in support. Don’t ever let them do it for you.”
Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur for the Freedom of Assembly and Association.
Maina Kiai’s response nicely reflects why Protection International builds on local initiatives to organize protection. The platform showcases a wealth of people willing and capable to “stick out their neck”. From Argentina to Uzbekistan, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
Rather than landing in a country and offering our services as Protection International from far away, we work with and through initiatives rooted in local civil society.
It is inspiring to hear the innovation and creativity with which activists deal with risks : playing with social status, connecting with influential partners, or simply carrying your phone in a special pocket that blocks it from getting traced.
And what’s better: there is solidarity and mutual inspiration in the air. People declare their determination to stand fast and organize protection from within. “When the chips are down you can only depend on yourself and each other,” as a participant from Malawi says. That’s the people we try to stand with.
In Guatemala we work with and through Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA), in Colombia we work with and through PAS, in East Africa, we partner with East & Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, in Indonesia we work with and through KontraS.
These close partnerships are key to a successful protection strategy and a deep understanding of every defender’s needs and objectives.
Arjan van der Waal blogs from Dublin, Ireland.
Human rights defenders from all around the world gather here on 9, 10 and 11 October at the Front Line Defenders Platform.
To follow the Dublin Platform, follow this Twitter Hashtag : #DubPlat
*DIY stands for Do It Yourself.