West Africa | Civil society assesses the impact of national defenders laws


20 years after the adoption of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders, where are we on the legal protection of defenders in West Africa? To assess the progress made but also the challenges that still remain in the region, ISHR in collaboration with the West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN), the Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (CIDDH) and HRCnet, is organising a workshop with defenders coming from all around the region.

For years, ISHR has been collaborating with partners in West Africa to strengthen the legal protection of human rights defenders in the region. As a result, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso adopted in 2014 and 2017 laws which specifically guarantee the protection and promotion of defenders. These unprecedented accomplishments paint a positive dynamic towards the protection of defenders, although terrorist threats have increased in recent years in the region. 

What impact do the new laws have on the effective protection of defenders? What are the challenges for their full implementation? How can civil society initiatives be strengthened so that they influence the implementation of these mechanisms? These are the questions we will try to answer during the workshop that will take place in Abidjan from 28 to 31 August 2018. The workshop will also acknowledge the achievements so far.

All while celebrating the important steps taken by some countries in the region, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights will meet with defenders from the region. He will also take this opportunity to engage in particular with defenders from Cote d’Ivoire to identify their needs as well as the impact of the law and challenges in its implementation. He will work collaboratively on action points to reinforce the law's effective implementation.

At the same time, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders, this workshop will be the opportunity to reflect on how the protection of defenders evolved in West Africa since the adoption of the Declaration, take stock of the steps already taken by different countries to reinforce this protection, and strategise to strengthen it further. This will be done through an assessment of the protection of defenders, and the international and local opportunities to improve it.  

During the workshop's opening ceremony, a video message recorded by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders from the United Nations will be projected. This message will present his mandate’s objectives as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Declaration, and encourage defenders to continue their vital work in the region.


For further information please contact:

Marthe Pedan COULIBALY, Ivoirian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders

Michael ANTHONY, HRCnet


Mélanie SONHAYE KOMBATE, West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network



  • Africa
  • Human rights defenders
  • NGOs
  • United Nations
  • Women's rights and WHRD
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • ACHPR Special Rapporteur on HRDs
  • National HRDs laws/policies
  • Burkina Faso
  • Gambia
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Ivory Coast
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Sierra Leone