The International Peace Institute (IPI) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs co-hosted Tryge Lie symposium on Fundamental Freedoms on the topic “Human Rights Defenders: A Global Movement for Peace.” December 10th 2018 marked the 70th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and 2018 is also the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
The symposium was introduced by the Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide. The recently appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet commented that human rights defenders, particularly those representing women, gender equality and LGBT interests, were facing smear campaigns, harassment, intimidation, physical attacks, arrest, and often the “added consequence” of sexual violence. She also stated that there are widespread efforts to silence and delegitimize specifically women human rights defenders.
The list of speakers included Thomas Hughes, the Executive Director of Article 19, which promotes freedom of information and expression, who pointed out that counterterrorism laws are being widely used against rights defenders; Florence Simbiri Jaoko, Special Envoy for the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) who argued that in keeping with the SDGs, states had the obligation of providing data on the number of killings and kidnappings and instances of torture used against journalists and trade unionists and other rights advocates.
The symposium highlighted the challenges faced by human rights defenders the across the world but speakers stressed the importance in pushing back and making more spaces available and holding states accountable.