WHRD International Coalition celebrates 10 years


Este artículo también se encuentra en español aquí

By Sarah Marland, Coordinator of the WHRD International Coalition

Este artículo también se encuentra en español aquí

By Sarah Marland, Coordinator of the WHRD International Coalition

Before the campaign on Women Human Rights Defenders in 2005, there was little understanding of who women human rights defenders are and the unique risks they face. Through that campaign, national and international recognition of women human rights defenders and their work has increased markedly. In 2008, building on their success, organisations driving the campaign became a formal coalition for the protection of women human rights defenders.

Establishing the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC) increased coordination and maximised opportunities for organisations to complement each other’s work. It generated new perspectives and analyses and also attracted funding to support initiatives for the protection of women human rights defenders. The added value of the coalition was in bringing together organisations from different movements – women’s rights, human rights and sexual rights – to work for the protection of women human rights defenders. These principles remain central to the coalition’s purpose although there has been a shift from recognition of WHRDs to implementation of the gains of the last decade.

The growth of fundamentalisms, militarism and conflict, globalisation, crises of democracy, patriarchy and heternormativity across the world put women human rights defenders at increased risk. The alarming escalation in violence against WHRDs and violations of their rights in recent years demonstrates the urgent need for better analysis on issues affecting WHRDs, the importance of strengthening protection mechanisms and support networks for WHRDs across the globe and strengthening of global movements to sustain women defenders. With this in mind, the WHRDIC has developed a three year strategic plan that aims to address the specific needs of women human rights defenders and their movements.

The first goal is to build and advance the knowledge base about WHRDs through analyses, documentation, research, and training to enable policy and law makers at the international and regional levels to develop a deeper understanding of the experiences of WHRDs, ensure greater recognition and validation of WHRDs work and to work towards better mechanisms for their protection. As a global network, the WHRDIC is in a unique position to do broad documentation of violations against WHRDs and identify trends both regionally and globally. In 2015 we will produce research on the impact of extractive industries on WHRDs and will develop other research projects in the following years. The WHRDIC will also publish tools to support the documentation of WHRDs work of and violations perpetrated against them through a gender lens.

The second goal is to coordinate timely responses and systematic interventions for WHRDs at risk. The WHRDIC facilitates coordination with other groups and organisations who are also responding and in the coming years will implement systems to track and learn from effectiveness of Coalition and member organisations’ urgent responses especially the value add of joint responses. The WHRDIC will also support member organisations to include a stronger gender and contextual analysis when they respond to WHRDs at risk help to provide more effective and appropriate responses. We can mobilise when a defender is at risk and use the resources of all the agencies to try to ensure their safety.

Integrating our broad analysis and work with individual defenders, the third goal is to influence policy frameworks and institutions at the global and regional level to advance the provision of adequate support and protection for WHRDs. Through our member organisations we will work to influence States and international institutions to take steps to implement resolutions related to WHRDs and better strategies and policies for prevention and protection of WHRDs. The WHRDIC will ensure that WHRDs and their issues are visible and represented at pertinent international and regional fora and take steps to include WHRDs in language in UN documents.

Finally, the WHRDIC aims to strengthen the sustainability of WHRDs as individuals, as well as their organisations and movements. In the absence of substantive protection from the UN, regional bodies and national governments, it is the networks of women human rights defenders themselves that provide protection. These networks have become vital in both raising international awareness and drawing attention to issues, but also for the women themselves for recognition and validity of their work and solidarity with global movements.

In the decade since the consultation in Sri Lanka that kick-started the WHRD campaign, the WHRDIC has had many successes. It has increased recognition of women human rights defenders and their work. Through the Coalition, WHRDs around the world find solidarity, support, collaboration and the sharing of information and resources. Organisations supported by the Coalition have adopted the WHRD framework, and networks of women human rights defenders have been created in a number of countries and regions. Analysis provided by WHRDIC has contributed to some landmark international reports and in 2013 UN General Assembly adopted the resolution, ‘Protecting Women Human Rights Defenders’. In the next ten years, the WHRDIC will strive to make more of these remarkable gains so that women human rights defenders around the world are recognised, supported and protected.

Photo: Flickr K.Kendall