More than 150 human rights defenders gather to lead change and fight repression, racism and discrimination

Marking the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, more than 150 human rights defenders from around the world are gathering in Paris to plan for the next 20 years of advancing human rights, and the struggle for change against repression, racism and discrimination.

The Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018 comes at a time when, on an almost daily basis, a human rights defender (HRD) is reported killed, when criminalization and defamation have become standard risks, and when governments are failing their commitments made in 1998 to respect and protect HRDs.

All over the world, ordinary people with extraordinary passion are speaking out for justice and equality in their everyday lives. These HRDs are teachers, factory workers, journalists or lawyers; they are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. They are driven by their deep belief that people everywhere should be able to enjoy and exercise their rights. And they pose a challenge to authoritarians, corrupt officials and those who put profit over the protection of natural resources and communal rights to land.

“Governments, companies and other powerful figures are harassing, spying on, jailing, torturing and even killing human rights defenders – just for defending the fundamental rights of their communities,” said Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, on behalf of the convening organizations leading the Human Rights Defenders World Summit.[1]

“The safety of defenders who are affected by inequality, exclusion, and intersecting forms of discrimination is further jeopardized every day because of the work they do,” said Cindy Clark, feminist activist and Co-Executive Director of AWID, also on behalf of the convening group.

The Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018 (29-31 October) will bring together a diverse group of more than 150 human rights defenders who are on the frontlines of the struggle for justice, freedom and equality. HRDs at the summit will develop strategies to tackle the obstacles and challenges they face in their fight against repression, racism, discrimination, killings and enforced disappearances. They will work to present an Action Plan for key stakeholders – including governments, corporations, international financial institutions, donors and others – to ensure the respect for and safety of human rights defenders.

Among them is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia, who is calling for justice after his mother, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was assassinated one year ago in Malta; Anielle Franco, who is bravely campaigning on behalf of her sister, Marielle Franco, a Brazilian activist and elected councillor who was shot dead in her car seven months ago; and Hina Jilani, human rights lawyer and founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who is working to ensure a corruption-free legal system in Pakistan. 

Twenty years ago, the first-ever Human Rights Defenders Summit was held at the Palais de Chaillot, Paris. That year, governments adopted what has become known as the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders to acknowledge the key role of HRDs. States committed to recognizing and protecting all those who defend human rights – whoever they are and wherever they are. Yet 20 years on, despite progress in some areas, many governments are continuing to fall short of their commitments. In 2017, at least 312 human rights defenders were assassinated, twice as many as in 2015, almost all with impunity for the perpetrators.

Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, noted: “The Summit is a key opportunity for human rights defenders around the world, facing vilification and increased attacks, to come to together and discuss next steps on their own terms.”

The Summit will be livestreamed, and journalists can be accredited to attend and interview HRDs.

Notes to editors

The Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018
The Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018 will bring together a diverse group of 150 human rights defenders from around the world for three days of meetings, panel discussions, networking and workshopping. These activists, who are at the forefront of struggles for social, political and environmental changes in their countries, will have the opportunity to connect and engage with regional and international human rights organizations, global government leaders, the United Nations, donors and the private sector. The first Human Rights Defenders World Summit took place 20 years ago in 1998 at the Palais de Chaillot, Paris, the same location where this year’s closing ceremony will be held.

About the organizations involved:

Amnesty International Amnesty International is a global movement of more than seven million people who take injustice personally. We are campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. We are funded by members and people like you. We are independent of any political ideology, economic interest or religion.         

Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
AWID is a global feminist organisation with over 5,000 individual and institutional members from 164 countries. We support feminist, women’s rights and gender justice movements to thrive, to be a driving force in challenging systems of oppression, and to co-create feminist realities.

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) is an international human rights NGO federating 184 organisations from 112 countries. Since 1922, FIDH has been defending all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Front Line Defenders
Front Line Defenders works for the protection, security and well-being of human rights defenders at risk around the world, providing grants, training and capacity building in physical and digital protection, advocacy and campaigning/visibility for HRDs.

International Service for Human Rights
The International Service for Human Rights is an independent, non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights. We achieve this by supporting human rights defenders, strengthening human rights systems, and leading and participating in coalitions for human rights change.

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is the world’s largest coalition of non-governmental organisations fighting against arbitrary detention, torture, summary and extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances and other forms of violence and provides a comprehensive system of support and protection for human rights defenders.

ProtectDefenders.EU is the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism, established to protect defenders at high risk and facing the most difficult situations worldwide. Led by a consortium of 12 NGOs active in the field of human rights.

Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders, or Reporters Sans Frontières, is an international non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Paris, France, that conducts political advocacy on issues relating to freedom of information and freedom of the press. 

[1] The convening organizations are: Amnesty International; Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID); FIDH; Front Line Defenders; International Service for Human Rights; OMCT;; Reporters Without Borders.