We all have the right and the responsibility to promote human rights and to safeguard democracy and its institutions. Human rights defenders are those of us that actively do so. Around the world, civic freedoms and human rights defenders (HRDs) are increasingly under attack and the environment in which civil society can operate freely is narrowing. This phenomenon is taking place not just in countries that are led by repressive or autocratic governments, but also in established democracies. In particular, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, freedom of information, and the right to privacy, are under increasing attack. Both companies and defenders have a shared interest in the full respect of civic freedoms, characterised by non-discrimination, transparent and accountable government, and freedom from corruption.
Prioritisation of business interests over interests of communities and workers is one of the key challenges faced by defenders. HRDs who confront business interests – be it human rights lawyers, labour activists and unionists, land and environmental defenders, anti-corruption activists or human rights journalists – are among those defenders most at risk. They are key agents of change, and they contribute greatly to safeguarding human rights and ensuring corporate responsibility. This portal collects the latest news on struggles and victories of these defenders, public company actions and policies in support of defenders and civic freedoms, guidance for companies and investors, and developments related to the two most targeted groups - labour rights defenders and land and environmental defenders. It also links to our database of attacks and our interview series, where defenders share their strategies, victories, and recommendations and business representatives share their perspectives on protecting civic freedoms and human rights.
The responsibility of businesses to respect human rights not only entails a negative duty to refrain from violating the rights of others, but also a positive obligation to support a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders in the countries in which they are operating. Discharging this duty requires consultation with defenders in order to understand the issues at stake and the shortcomings that impede their work.Mr Michel Forst, former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
Featured stories & campaigns
2021 International Human Rights Defenders Day
9 December is International Human Rights Defenders Day, dedicated to human rights activists, land and environmental defenders, trade unionists, affected community members, and civil society organisations who are at the forefront of protecting rights and civic freedoms.
COP26: The most exclusive Climate Conference according to CSOs
In our coverage of the 2021 COP26, we highlight the voices of indigenous peoples, calling for land rights as a key climate solution, of workers' rights organisations, demanding links between climate displacement and forced labour be addressed, and of human rights and environmental movement agreeing that transition minerals mining needs to be transformed for the renewable energy transition to be just.
AFREWATCH wins Human Rights and Business Award 2021
AFREWATCH, organization based in DRC working for fair, equitable & transparent development of natural resources in Africa, received the 2021 Human Rights and Business Award. The $50,000 prize recognizes “outstanding work by human rights defenders addressing the human rights impacts of business”.
Our analysis & infographics
Since 2015, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has been collecting data on attacks on human rights defenders, focusing on business sectors and specific businesses. Our infographics and briefings show patterns of violence, identify at-risk business sectors and geographic areas, provide guidance for business & investors as well as in-depth analysis of some specific types of attacks, such as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs).
Explore further: Database of attacks on HRDs
The Resource Centre collects data on attacks on defenders that are targeted because they raise concerns about business sectors and operations. Collecting data about attacks on defenders is important in order to analyse patterns of violence, identify at-risk business sectors and geographic areas, and provide support to targeted individuals and groups.
HRDs interview series
The Resource Centre collects interviews with activists, journalists and human rights defenders, where they share their strategies, victories, and recommendations on protecting civic freedoms and human rights.