During three days, 40 human rights defenders from the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia came together in Brussels to exchange experiences and knowledge about holistic protection. This meeting allowed us to analyse the global tendencies that impact our risk as well as identify our common needs as a collective of human rights defenders. The sessions allowed us to construct a common narrative and key messages and recommendations to political actors in the European Union and it´s member states.
Weighing up the situation for human rights defenders over the past 20 years of the promotion of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights Defenders, we reiterate that we undertake our work in increasingly hostile contexts and we confront risks such as criminalisation and the represion of social protest, the increase in killings and the increase in social conflictivity particularly due to the imposition of economic projects and religious fundamentalism.
Against this adverse scenario, we wanted to reflect on our achievments and we recognise, for example, that human rights defense movements have increased and strengthened in the countries where PBI maintains projects. We also highlight the historic sentences from the Inter-American Court as well as in certain States such as the sentence for genocide in Guatemala. In this vein, we consider that we have a greater amplitude of space in which to act and participate as human rights defenders. In certain countries, judicial insturments have progressively been adopted that strengthen the rule of law, such as the Kenyan Constitution in 2010. These successes have pushed for necessary changes so that societies may become fairer and more democratic and prove the importance of continuing to support and protect human rights defenders.
The delegation of 13 human rights defenders from Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Nepal and Indonesia had several meetings with the human rights and geographical departments of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the political atachees of members of the European Parliament. These political actors from the European Union had the opportunity to listen to the analysis and findings of the previous sessions and direct testimony from the human rights defenders, lawyers, defenders of womens´rights, LGBTI rights, economic, social and cultural rights and others who daily confront violence. Similarly, they shared recommendations directed at recognising the work of human rights defenders, improving their protection from a holistic perspective and reverting the situation of generalised impunity.
Concluding the event in Brussels, PBI joined the Permanent Representation of Austria in organising a conference between human rights defenders, international experts from the UN, representatives from the EEAS and the General Trade Direction of the European Commission, permanent representatives of the member states and international human rights organisations. In the event the importance of good communication was highlighted as an empowering tool and protection through visibility, but also emphasis was put on the need to increase funds, promote and support networks and support the creation of legislation in favor of the protection of human rights defenders. The civil society representatives insisted on the need to promote binding legislation in the EU that regulates due diligence of companies and establishes effective mechanisms for access to justice with the participation of human rights defenders.