Photo: NorwayUN/Marte Fløan Beisvåg.Photo: NorwayUN/Marte Fløan Beisvåg

New resolution on Protecting Women Human Rights Defenders

Last updated: 12/2/2013 // Norway initiated a new UN resolution on Protecting Women Human Rights Defenders at the UN this fall. After long negotiations, member states adopted the resolution by consensus. – This is a first step in the right direction, says Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende.

The UN resolution states that human rights defenders should be able to carry out their work without restrictions or threats to themselves or their families. Member States have also committed themselves to implement special measures to protect women human rights defenders.

- Women human rights defenders frequently face violence, threats and other types of harassment. By adopting this resolution, UN Member States are sending a clear message on the importance of taking responsibility for protecting those who defend the rights of others, says Brende. 

Norway has led the negotiations for the resolution adopted on November 27. – It is unacceptable to criminalize, stigmatize or curtail human rights defenders. Importantly, the resolution asks States to change laws that undermine human rights, lead negotiator Geir Sjøberg says. There is however an urgent need to reduce the gap between the obligations of States and realities on the ground in terms of protecting women human rights defenders.

- There is a great mismatch between realities for brave women on the ground and what was agreed last week. The real work starts now, Sjøberg says. 

A broad range of civil society actors have supported the resolution, and during the negotiations mobilized heavily to convince States to support the resolution. Over 70 civil society organizations and human rights defenders’ networks from across Africa signed an open letter to their State representatives urging them to sponsor the text. In addition, eminent individuals including Women Nobel Peace Prize winners and members of The Elders called for States in every part of the world to support a strong resolution.

- The resolution urges States to put in place gender-specific laws and policies for the protection of women human rights defenders and to ensure that defenders themselves are involved in the design and implementation of these measures, Nicole Bjerler of Amnesty International’s UN Office in New York said to ISHR Global after the adoption, adding that - Effective implementation of such measures by States will be key to enabling women human rights defenders to carry out their important and legitimate work.

Other adopted resolutions

Wednesday was the last day of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, the Committee which treats human rights issues. In addition to the resolution on Protecting Human Rights Defenders other resolutions were also taken to action, including the report to the Human Rights Council (HRC) which led to a vote. The issue at stake was on reopening a HRC resolution on reprisals, evoking a principal discussion about the work allocation between the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. The EU presented amendments on deleting two articles but lost the voting, possibly leading to a rematch later in December. The resolution on the Right to Privacy In the Digital Age, the resolution on the Rights of Indigenous People and the resolution on the Rights of the Child was also adopted, the latter with a text on sexual and reproductive health.   

Read the resolution on Women Human Rights Defenders.

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