12 Mar

We all want to breathe clean air, drink safe water, and to be able to provide sustenance and a healthy, dignified life for our families. Human survival and well-being rests on a biodiverse and healthy environment and a safe climate. Environmental human rights defenders help us to achieve that - they defend the planet and their communities from the impact of harmful resource extraction or pollution by unscrupulous companies or governments. Their work is essential to attaining the sustainable development goals and ensuring that no-one is left behind.  

13 Mar

If the Human Rights Council cannot speak out against arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance in China, it will give a pass to one of the world's worst human rights violators, and send a worrying message to activists around the globe, ISHR said today. 

07 Mar

The sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women will start today in New York. This session will focus on social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. It is essential that women human rights defenders are part of the conversations and outcomes. 

07 Mar

A cross-regional group of 36 States, including all EU Member States, have called today for the release of detained women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, sending a strong message to the Saudi authorities that the Council will hold its members accountable. The joint statement at the Council comes at a critical time as the Saudi Public Prosecution announced last week that some of the defenders will be referred to trial.

07 Mar

Governments and UN agencies and programmes must make the protection of human rights defenders a paramount priority in order to address harmful inequalities and ensure sustainable development for all. 

LGBTI rights | Factsheets on UN Special Procedures

Rainbow flag photo credit: Common Wikimedia Ludovic Bertron

ISHR and ILGA have looked through the work of 39 UN Special Procedures over the last seven years to compile factsheets listing the references and recommendations made by these experts regarding LGBTI persons, sexual orientation, sex characteristics, gender identity and expression.

Focusing on the Special Procedures that have made the most regular and in-depth references to issues affecting LGBTI persons, the factsheets examine all thematic reports, reports arising from country visits, and communications sent to different States between January 2011 and November 2018.

The experts on leprosy, albinism, mercenaries, environment, and right to food, have not yet included any references to LGBTI persons or issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics.

Photo credit: Common Wikimedia Ludovic Bertron

CSW63 | No peace without women human rights defenders


What peace means and how women human rights defenders contribute to achieving it, was at the heart of the debate at a packed ISHR side event held this week at CSW 63.  Speakers reflected in particular on experiences in Colombia, Chechnya and Yemen - all countries that are or have been on the agenda of the UN Security Council.  The event garnered significant, cross-regional backing from Security Council members Cote d’Ivoire, Peru and the UK, as well as Norway and Tunisia.  NGOs Amnesty International and Limpal also co-sponsored.

Journalist Safa Al Ahmad, reflecting on her work in Yemen, spoke of who those defending rights are. 

‘In most situations where you are in conflict there are no official organizations, but there are women who take a stand everyday’, she noted. ‘Women are generally much better in conflict resolution. They have better understanding of the long time impact of war and conflict in society.’

Defending rights in conflict situations carries risks, as Diana María Salcedo Lopez from LIMPAL made clear. She spoke of the many murders of defenders in Colombia, and how ensuring a sustainable peace involved holding accountable those responsible.  

The risks for defenders extend to participating in events at the UN.  Gistam Sakaeva, a defender working to protect women from violence in Chechnya, said, ‘I’m openly speaking on this issue even though I may receive threats when I return.’

All the civil society panelists spoke of being accused of being terrorists. As if to illustrate the point, such an accusation was later levelled at panelist Safa Al Ahmad by a State delegate from Yemen from the floor.   This was roundly condemned in the room. 

‘There is no excuse for confusing human rights defenders with terrorism,’ said UK Ambassador Karen Pierce. ‘You may deplore what someone says but you should defend to the death their right to say it.’

In her intervention, the representative of Cote d’Ivoire spoke movingly about the years of conflict in her country and of the importance of women pushing forward to demand access to key decision-making spaces. 

This spoke to a key objective of the gathering - to increase understanding of why women human rights defenders' work on peace and security is so critical and must be enabled.  Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Peru, Gustavo Mezo-Cuadra added that, ‘(w)ithout understanding that the role of women human rights defenders is a key element in sustaining peace it is difficult to enhance their protection and create spaces to do their work.’  

The  responsibility – and interest – of UN Member States and bodies to promote and enable the work of defenders was 'also addressed by Ambassador Meza Cuadra.  He quoted the Secretary General when he said: 

‘When human rights defenders are threatened the principles of the UN are under attack.  Human rights defenders are a great asset in enhancing our work in sustaining peace. Let us embrace and support human rights defenders everywhere so they can continue their essential work.’  

Specific recommendations for the Security Council on promoting the work of defenders are contained in an upcoming ISHR paper, ‘Is Peace and Security Possible without Women Human Rights Defenders?’.  

In addition, Michel Forst -just arrived from presenting his report on women human rights defenders to the Human Rights Council -shared the news that one of his last reports as Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders will focus on the experience of human rights defenders working in conflict and post-conflict situations. 

As the event wrapped up, Gistam Sakaeva thanked all those present and the international community more widely.  ‘Without your support we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. It is hope for thousands of people whose family members are jailed and separated,’ she said. 

The Norwegian Minister for International Development, Dag-Inge Ulstein, added to this, urging those present to keep working to promote defenders’ work.

‘We need to be tougher, stronger and never rest. It’s our duty so that we can provide security for the kids, girls and women human rights warriors.’

Missed the event?  Watch the webcast!


For more information contact: Eleanor Openshaw


Photo credit: © UK Permanent Mission to the UN/Jaclyn Licht


flyer CSW event


Nigeria NGO Bill






The relationship between any State and its civil society should be one of collaboration and protection, in the interest of all citizens. Yet, it is not easy being a human rights defender or civil society organisation in Nigeria,  as the government continues to interfere with the work of defenders and NGOs through restrictive legislation.

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