HRDs being interviewed by journalists


The Sunflower Declaration: A call to action to protect human rights defenders at risk

31 August 2023

Today, the “Sunflower Declaration” was released, a call to action that PI endorsed to protect human rights defenders at risk. This declaration – issued as part of the Nobel Peace Conference 2023 – reiterates that everyone can be a human rights defender, that this role can take several forms and that human rights cannot exist without those who defend, promote and protect them.

Yet, despite the crucial work of human rights defenders and the fact that their ability to carry out their work safely is a precondition for creating positive and lasting change, they face growing risks at the hands of both state authorities and non-state actors. Legal harassment, surveillance, detainment and violence are but only some of the attacks that human rights defenders experience worldwide. More often than not, these attacks go unpunished.

In light of these challenges, the Sunflower Declaration makes recommendations to a variety of actors on how they can best support human rights defenders at risk. We would like to draw special attention to some of the declaration’s calls which are in line with PI’s specific work, namely the calls:

  • to governments to adopt standards “to ensure that human rights defenders are […] enabled to continue their work”, which is in line with PI’s repeated advocacy calling for the right to defend human rights to be recognized and respected.
  • to governments to “introduce a flexible, rapid response, temporary protective visa system for human rights defenders facing imminent danger”. PI frequently raises this issue at the EU level and has been calling – along with other organisations – for an effective and enabling EU visa framework to allow at-risk human rights defenders to access visas to the EU’s territory.
  • to governments to “curb the practice of criminalizing and harassing human rights defenders”, a practice which negatively impacts individual HRDs but also their families and communities, as well as the civil society movement in their country as a whole. A multipronged approach, requiring political, legal and financial support to human rights defenders, is needed to counter criminalization.
  • to businesses and investors to “adopt and comply with OECD/UN guidelines on businesses and human rights”. PI regularly provides inputs when such guidelines are being reviewed to ensure they promote rights-respecting development, protect civil society participation and defend the defenders by including strong protections for human rights defenders who denounce business abuses and human rights violations.

As the Sunflower Declaration mentions, urgent action is needed to protect human rights defenders at risk on a coordinated, global scale. We hope that governments, multilateral organisations, businesses and investors, donor organisations, and cities and universities will heed the declaration’s calls and take the necessary measures so that everyone can freely enjoy the right to defend human rights.  

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