» The Human Rights Defenders
Who are the Human Rights defenders?
The human rights defenders are people who, individually or collectively, work to promote and protect human rights, usually at the local or regional level. What identifies them as “defenders” is the purpose of his work, although the nature of their activities can be very diverse: members of non-governmental organizations; public employees in the field of justice, Attorney, Ombudsmen or similar; trade unionists; members of the private sector, international organizations, professionals from other areas…
The task of the defenders can consist of collecting and disseminating information about human rights violations, doing activities to mobilize public opinion, training or education of other people or sectors on issues of human rights, support to victims violations of human rights, strengthening of mechanisms for back reporting… In other words, a multidisciplinary variety of tasks whose common characteristic is the commitment to help others, a commitment based on international standards of human rights and the principles of equality and non-discrimination and human dignity. A commitment that often entails a risk to the life and safety of the defenders and/or their families, both by government officials and by other actors (landowners, paramilitary organized crime cartels, etc.).
To protect the work of these people, in 1998 the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups, and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ( Res. 53/144 of 9 December 1998). The Declaration recognizes that:
“Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.”
This implies, for the Declaration, the individual and collective right of everyone to know, promote and protect human rights and the corresponding duty of States to protect people who act as “human rights defenders”.
More recently, the resolution 60/161, of the United Nations General Assembly of 16 December 2005 calls, among other things, that: “4. … States should take all necessary measures to local and national level to ensure the protection of human rights defenders, particularly in times of conflict and peacekeeping.” This is the obligation of the participating cities with the approach of this project.
As a guarantee mechanism of the Declaration, the United Nations decided in 2000 to appoint a special representative on the issue of human rights defenders. This representative is actually the Ugandan Margaret Sekaggya and she performes an annual report on the situation of the defenders worldwide.
All these bodies and international instruments should be reinforced, as the Declaration itself says in its articles 14 and 15, by the action of the various State authorities, which are obliged to take all necessary measures to promote understanding among all its citizens of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
The municipalities involved in this project are considering for years human rights as the cornerstone of their actions and they plan their public policies according to different standards of human rights that affect them.
Complete these policies, with a promotion and awareness project, gives meaning to all the action of the cities involved in the project and is its main justification.