[5 August 2022] Over the years, and especially since 2012, we have seen a growing number of countries adopt national public policies for the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs). For the purposes of this work, it is broadly understood that public policies for the protection of HRDs includes any piece of legislation, decree, policy or protocol issued by a government or a state authority to respond to their obligation to protect HRDs and/or the right to defend human rights.
The first country was Colombia, which enacted a policy 25 years ago. In 1997, through Law 418, the Colombian Ministry of the Interior set up a programme for the protection of persons at risk due to political or ideological violence or the internal armed conflict. Ten years later, in 2007, Brazil was the second country to adopt a national decree establishing a protection mechanism within the Secretariat of Human Rights. And as the years go on, more and more countries are adopting national public policies for the protection of defenders. At the date of publication, there are 15 countries with national public policies for the protection of HRDs. But it is important to critically reflect and ask ourselves, have we seen actual improvements in the way human rights defenders are prioritised for protection in these countries? Are these policies and mechanisms working effectively?
Since 2005, Protection International (PI) has been monitoring, supporting and contributing to the development of public policies in a number of countries. From our point of view, national public policies for the protection of defenders are an essential step in building an enabling environment for the protection of the right to defend human rights. This, however, is only a first step. More work needs to be done in order to understand the real impacts of these policies and how they are (or aren’t) improving the working environment for HRDs.
Read Protection International’s new report “The Worldwide Growth of National Policies for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders: A current overview and the challenges ahead” for more information and be sure to visit the Focus Observatory website for the latest updates.