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Human rights defenders & whistle-blowers

Human Rights defender (HRD) is a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, act to promote and protect human rights in a peaceful way [UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders]. Respect and support for the activities of human rights defenders, including investigating and reporting on human rights abuses, are essential for the full realization of human rights, the rule of law and sustainable development. HRDs play a critical role in monitoring state and business conduct in the context of economic activities by identifying concerns, and advocating for redress and accountability of government and business actors involved in human rights abuses.

The UNGPs recognize the key role of HRDs in human rights due diligence. Businesses are urged to consider HRDs as an important expert resource that may help companies assess their human rights impacts, and enable them to understand the concerns of affected stakeholders, particularly “in situations where consultation with affected stakeholders is not possible.” (UNGP 18 and Commentary, p. 20).

In practice, HRDs are often subject to persecution and harassment, punishment, arbitrary arrest or detention, especially in countries lacking effective rule of law. The UNGPs acknowledge the risks faced by HRDs (Commentary to UNGP Principle 26), which requires states to ensure that “the legitimate and peaceful activities of human rights defenders are not obstructed.”

In a 2015 report presented to the UN General Assembly by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs, HRDs working on business and human rights were considered as one of the most vulnerable groups of defenders. Particularly at risk are HRDs working on the intersection of land and environmental rights. Over 200 HRDs were killed in 2016 for protesting against negative environmental impacts and land-grabs affecting the livelihoods and rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. A 2016 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of land and environmental rights defenders noted the responsibility for or complicity of business actors in various human rights violations against defenders and communities working to protect fundamental rights and freedoms.

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International organization declaration/guidelines/information

IGO reports

NGOs tools/reports

What National Action Plans say on Human rights defenders & whistle-blowers