Coming to the Defence of Human Rights Defenders

June 2018

Recently, Forum Syd launched their human rights report, “Defending Their Rights, Risking Their Lives”, written by Enact Human Rights expert Thomas Trier Hansen and consultant Enrique Figallo, and Forum Syd Advocacy & Policy Advisor Karin Gregow.

The report examines factors that contribute to the shrinking civic space, including measures that silence human and environmental rights defenders. These “defenders” are individuals or groups that use their professional or personal capacities to protect and promote rights – including social activists, civil society organisations, lawyers, and indigenous peoples. Discussions in the report cover the role and responsibility of national governments and companies in defending these groups and individuals. It examines hostile environments and industry sectors where risks are most present, from a variety of countries. Further, the report provides examples of positive actions that businesses can take to support human rights defenders.

The report launch took place at Myntkrogen in Stockholm, Sweden. The exciting event included expert panelists Annika Ben-David, Swedish Ambassador for Human Rights; Claudia Arenas, former regional manager for Latin America at Forum Syd; Thomas Trier Hansen, lawyer and human rights expert at Enact; Ana Zbona, Business and Human Rights Resource Center and Lisa Osbäck, CEO of the International Council of Swedish Industry.  

These panelists discussed topics from the report, contributed observations on human rights defence in various countries, and highlighted critical challenges. At the beginning of the event, the experts presented findings within their own research and careers. Significantly, Thomas pointed out that one of the main drivers of poor protection for human rights defenders is the “declining rule of law”. As the panel progressed, emphasis was placed on the dialogues between government and business and the space created for civil society to discuss rights and concerns. As Thomas stated, “it would be interesting to map out different civic platforms to see which avenues of dialogue are succeeding.”

The successful launch of this report highlights Enact’s own expertise and collaboration with other sustainable business and human rights organizations and forums. Congratulations again to Thomas, Enrique, and Karin – working to bring awareness and protection to human rights defenders!