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Photo: "The industrialisation of the countryside", mural by Grace Greenwood in the Abelardo Rodriguez market, Mexico City

In 1998 the United Nations adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, a document that recognises the essential input of human rights defenders in the protection, promotion and respect for human rights throughout the world.  This focus on the brave people who on a daily basis confront obstacles and risks just for defending the rights of future generations is the focus that PBI has always adopted in our mission to create a fairer and more peaceful world.   Human rights defenders are catalysts that push social justice movements and to whom we owe important international advances in topics of equality, tolerance and the building of peaceful societies. 

One way in which to comply with the mandate of this declaration is to recognise the impotance of the work human rights defenders carry out from their communities and for their communities.  Throughout over 35 years, PBI has worked to support the committments this declaration lays out, assuring that human rights defenders can continue with their important work in the security conditions they deserve.  Unfortunately the work of human rights defense is still a high risk activity in many parts of the world, reason for which PBI continues to support organisations, individuals and communities so that they can continue with their work despite the challenges they face.

In September of this year the declaration celebrates 20 years in force.  We will make the most out of this opportunity to recognise the vital work of human rights defenders throughout the world to promote our rights through a series of activities that will take place throughout Europe during September and October 2018.  From PBI´s projects in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Indonesia, Nepal and Kenya, human rights defenders will travel to Europe to celebrate the 20th anniversary and to speak about the achievments and challenges that still remain in order to fully implement the declaration as it was intended. 

Two women human rights defenders that PBI accompanis in the northern state of Coahuila as well as the southern state of Guerrero will travel across the Atlantic for this event.

Cristina Auerbach from the Pasta de Conchos Family Organisation, is a well known human rights defender working with miners in the state of Coahuila.  She works on the case of the Pasta de Conchos mine where 65 miners were killed in an accident in the mine in 2006 whose bodies have yet to be rescued.  She supports the families of these miners and works to assure that these types of incidents do not repeat themselves and that the labour rights of miners are respected.  For her work she has recieved threats, harrassment and defamation, but despite everything she continues to be convinced of the importance of human rights defense work and her input has been fundamental in advancing the topics of juctice, reparation and non-repetition of human rights violations in Coahuila.

Sandra Alarcón, the other women who will travel to Europe for the planned activities, is a lawyer and works with the organisation Tlachinolla, Human Rights Center of the Montain in the state of Guerrero.  She has accompanied victims searching for truth and justice in the case of the forced disappearance of the 43 students from the Normal Rural "Raúl Isidro Burgos" in Ayotzinapa and in the case of two survivors of sexual torture, Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú.  Despite the fact that acheiving justice in these cases remains difficult, Sandra continues to fight for the recognition of victims of serious human rights violations and for the respect of human rights in the state of Guerrero.  

PBI is organising a series of activies that bring these two women together with other human rights defenders from across the world to share experiences about security, risk analysis and self care; to speak to key international actors and participate in advocacy activities in Brussels and other European countries.  These activities are part of the political accompaniment that we offer to human rights defenders in order to protect and extend their spaces of action and to help them in building their international support networks.

With these activities, PBI seeks to support and recognise the work of human rights defenders, highlighting their fundmanetal role in the strengthening of human rights at the international level.  With this in mind we seek to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and continue to feed into the dialogue of how best to protect these people and seek necessary changes in the world so that human rights are respected and strengthed.

If you would like further information about the planned activities for the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, please get in touch with PBI´s International Office in Brussels at admin@peacebrigades.org or +3225434443.