News

11 Jan
Yogyakarta Principles dandelion image

In a landmark Opinion, the regional human rights court of the Americas has upheld the rights of trans persons and same-sex couples. Referring to the Yogyakarta Principles and the Yogyakarta Principles plus 10, the Court advised Costa Rica that it should ensure that trans persons can change their name and gender markers on identity documents, and that same-sex couples enjoy full family rights – including marriage.

04 Jan

In a year that deep cuts were made to UN budgets, resourcing for human rights activities took a hit. Concluding its main session, the UN General Assembly’s approved approximately 50% less funding for some human rights posts than requested. Funds to support the work of treaty bodies were cut, but the need to adequately fund treaty bodies was reaffirmed, establishing a mandate for future resource requests.  

29 Dec

If you’re looking to make that last minute donation, there’s still time to invest in the future of human rights by empowering their defenders.

21 Dec

So far our December fundraising appeal has raised enough money to cover the costs of 6 full scholarships for 2018. With your help, we want to increase this to ten!

21 Dec

A UN Third Committee decision for the Secretary General to produce a comprehensive report on how the UN works to protect human rights defenders is threatened by funding cuts.  The UN Fifth Committee – the finance committee – must recommend full funding for this project, fulfilling the expectation of those supportive of maximizing support to defenders globally. 

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UNGA72 | Human rights funding takes a hit but key mandate reaffirmed

04.01.2018

In his proposed budget for 2018-2019, the UN Secretary General requested eleven new posts to support treaty bodies in dealing with backlogs and with the expected increase in individual communications and State reports. The General Assembly Plenary, accepting the recommendation made to it by its budgetary committee – the Fifth Committee – approved five. The final decision represents a compromise between providing no resourcing for extra posts – a position advocated by China – and the full request of eleven. 

The Secretary General’s request for the posts was based upon a 2014 decision taken by the General Assembly to ensure funding for treaty bodies. Whilst his request was not met in full for this biennium, the Fifth Committee did reaffirm the 2014 decision, thereby establishing a mandate for future resource requests. 

‘The failure to meet the request for support of treaty bodies is frustrating,’ said ISHR’s Tess McEvoy. ‘The General Assembly has already decided greater funding for treaty bodies is required to deal with systemic problems and future challenges.’

‘The percentage of the UN budget directed to support the human rights pillar is already tiny. To then carve off funding for posts already agreed as essential, makes no sense,’ she added. ‘The General Assembly ignores the fact that investing in human rights protection is a smart choice.’

Cut to human rights defenders’ post

The funding for a post to carry out an audit of the UN’s work to support human rights defenders, was also cut, from a 6 month position, as requested, to a 3 month one. 

‘This outcome is reflective, at least in part, of the lack of understanding by diplomats working on UN budgets of the importance of the tasks the funding is required for,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. 

‘However, the report will be written, and it will be up to all concerned – including civil society – to encourage relevant UN bodies to engage with the process,’ she added. ‘The report is needed to figure out how to maximise the impact of the UN’s work with human rights defenders.’  

Decisions directly affecting human rights activities were caught up in a powerful push – particularly by the US – for deep cuts to the proposed biennium budget. The approved UN regular budget for 2018 -2019 of $5.397 billion, is almost $200 million below what the Secretary General had sought, and 5% less than the budget approved for 2016-2017. 

The GA Plenary takes action on Third Committee recommendations

Earlier in December, the General Assembly plenary took action on resolutions adopted by the Third Committee at the end of November. Consensus resolutions were rubberstamped. Where texts had been contentious at the Third Committee stage, in many cases similar arguments were repeated during the plenary. Sudan called for two votes related to references to the International Criminal Court in Third Committee resolutions. 

Country resolutions that were voted on saw no major shifts from voting patterns at the Third Committee. Resolutions on the DPRK  (North Korea)and Myanmar were not voted on. The DPRK, China, Russia, Cuba and Iran dissociated themselves from the consensus on the former. 

Archived footage of the Fifth Committee open session and General Assembly plenary meetings can be found at UN Web TV.

Contact: Tess McEvoy, t.mcevoy@ishr.ch; Eleanor Openshaw, e.openshaw@ishr.ch

Photo: ISHR

 

 

Ecuador | Victory for NGO as arbitrary decision to force its closure is reversed

01.12.2017

Lea el artículo en español aquí.

With the reinstatement of Fundación Pachamama, a four-year injustice has finally been righted. Following years of lobbying by members of the organisation, the Ministry of the Environment finally announced that the decision to close the Foundation’s offices and dissolve their legal status had been reversed.

‘This is a historic victory for civil society and the indigenous and environmental movement in Ecuador, which has worked tirelessly for the protection of human rights,’ said Juan Auz, Executive Director of the Fundación Pachamama and former ISHR trainee.

What happened in 2013?

Fundación Pachamama is dedicated to the respect of the rights of indigenous peoples and the conservation of Amazon ecosystems.

It was closed in 2013 by Executive Decree - a much criticized instrument - after the then President Rafael Correa used the platform of his weekly TV and radio programme to call for the foundation to lose its right to operate. Fundación Pachamama was provided no opportunity to challenge the accusations made against it or the decision.

Four years attempting to reverse the decision began, with very limited available options at national level.

‘It was almost impossible to get an Ecuadorian Court to give us a hearing and acknowledge that our constitutional rights had been violated. We saw that only through lobbying at the international level would we get our voice heard,’ said Auz.

Members of the organisation looked to the regional and international human rights mechanisms to raise awareness of the violations experienced in their case and seek redress.

Example of a widespread problem

The experience of Fundación Pachamana is not unique in Ecuador or elsewhere in the region. A string of closures of other Ecuadorian NGOs have been condemned by several UN experts.

‘Dissolving groups is the most severe type of restriction on freedom of association,’ said the then Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai.

Closure of NGOs is aimed at silencing critics and forcing human rights defenders to commit their resources to legal and administrative processes rather than their core work.

‘Gaining back civic space is incredibly time-consuming and exhausting for organisations,’ said Juan Auz. ‘In particular for those working at local level that don’t have large budgets, or have access to possible required expertise. They need to move from defending rights, to permanent self-defence.’

‘In the case of Fundación Pachamama we had to focus on our survival.’

Adapting to survive

To continue the work of Fundación Pachamama and organise its defence, a new organisation, Terra Mater, was founded.

‘This was very important as government-backed extractive projects were spreading across the ancestral lands in the Amazon,’ said Auz. ‘We adapted to survive and to continue the work we’d been doing for 20 years alongside local communities.’

Breakthrough

The reinstatement of Fundación Pachamama comes with a change in government in the country and a change of approach.

‘The new government proposed a national dialogue in which various collectives, including national indigenous collectives, and a wide spectrum of civil society organisation participated. In this context, we had our voices heard.’

The Ministry of the Environment agreed to re-consider the case, accepting that errors and irregularities that had led to the dissolution of the organisation were a clear violation of the right to freedom of association.

Call for a new law

With this victory under their belt, the Fundación is calling for legislative changes to guarantee the rights of human rights defenders.

‘We urge the government to establish a participatory process to define a law guaranteeing the rights of civil society organisations and protecting the work of human rights defenders and those working to defend the environment,’ said Auz.

Fundación Pachamama is committed to keeping up its work in the Amazon, with the mission of protecting the Sacred Headwaters of the Napo and Marañón Rivers and strengthening the processes for the defence of collective, territorial and environmental rights.

For more information see the Fundación Pachamama press release #SeguimosEnPie 

 

 

 

Photos and Video: Fundación Pachamama and ISHR

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Opinion:

ISHR Director Phil Lynch reflects on civil society's highs and lows at the Human Rights Council in 2017, and offers some thoughts on opportunities to strengthen the Council and make it more accessible, effective and protective for human rights defenders and victims of violations in the year ahead.

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Mechanism

1984

ISHR commences work to develop an international Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders

1988

ISHR publishes first Human Rights Monitor, connecting human rights defenders on the ground with international human rights systems and developments

1993

ISHR facilitates global civil society engagement with the Second World Conference on Human Rights, which leads to the strengthening of women’s rights, the affirmation of universal rights, the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

1994

ISHR provides training, technical assistance and support to its 1000th human rights defender

1998

After 14 years of ISHR lobbying, advocacy and negotiation, the UN General Assembly adopts the landmark Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

2000

UN Secretary-General appoints Hina Jilani as inaugural UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, strengthening protection of human rights advocates at risk worldwide.

2004

ISHR leads a successful campaign for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

2005

ISHR co-founds and supports a range of international and regional human rights coalitions, including the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network

2006

ISHR contributes to the establishment and institution building of a new global peak body for human rights issues, the UN Human Rights Council

2007

ISHR leads and coordinates the development of the Yogyakarta Principles on sexual orientation and gender identity, strengthening legal recognition and protection of LGBT rights worldwide

2011

ISHR’s sustained advocacy on the issue of reprisals and intimidation faced by human rights defenders leads to adoption of landmark UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning and strengthening protections against reprisals

2012

Working with key NGO partners such as Amnesty International, ISHR leads civil society efforts to strengthen UN human rights treaty bodies, prevent their weakening and better connect their work with victims and human rights defenders on the ground

2013

Working with supportive states and NGOs, ISHR advocacy leads to adoption of historic Human Rights Council resolution calling on all States to review and amend national laws to respect and protect the work of human rights defenders