The Network

From 20 to 23 April 2009 at the Johannesburg + 10: All Africa Human Rights Defenders Conference, 88 HRDs from across the African continent, 33 international and development partners, with the presence of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the African Commission Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, gathered in Kampala, Uganda with the objective to take stock of the achievements made in the protection of HRDs since the first ‘All African Human Rights Defenders Conference’ held in Johannesburg in 1998, and to jointly devise strategies to respond to new and persisting challenges in order to effectively improve HRDs’ protection and capacity to work.

One of the main goals of the Jo’burg +10 Conference was to understand the challenges faced by HRDs at a regional and sub-regional level by engaging conference participants in significant discussions with an emphasis on exchanging information in order to identify best practices for the protection of HRDs and encourage replication of these practices across the continent for increased impact.

HRD networks were time and again identified as a very powerful and positive tool for enhancing the rights of HRDs and creating a more enabling environment for them to pursue their legitimate work. The attendance of coordinators and members of existing sub-regional networks from West Africa, Central Africa and the East and Horn of Africa allowed for a first-hand sharing of lessons learnt, and provided further stimulus for ongoing initiatives in Northern and Southern Africa to create similar networks in these regions.

The establishment of coordinating organisations that could help to reinforce and build on sub-regional efforts was seen as one of the key means through which to overcome many of the challenges and gaps in the protection mechanisms in place at the time. Based on these experiences, PAHRDN was founded to strengthen HRDs throughout Africa.

Visit PAHRDN website for their latest activities.


 North Africa

The North African Human Rights Defenders Network is an informal network of human rights organisations coordinated by the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) based in Tunis, Tunisia. It focuses on the protection of HRDs most at risk in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Sudan.

CIHRS is an independent regional non-governmental organisation, which aims to promote respect for the principles of human rights and democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. It seeks to attain this objective by developing, proposing, and promoting changes to policy and practice in the Arab region in order to bring them in line with international human rights standards. In addition, CIHRS conducts human rights advocacy at national, regional, and international human rights mechanisms, carries out research, and provides human rights education, both for youth and for established HRDs seeking ongoing professional development. It is also a major publisher of information related to human rights in the Arab region through various publications.

CIHRS has two offices located in North Africa, its main office in Tunis, Tunisia, that is handling the regional coordination activities, and an office in Cairo, Egypt which handles Egypt-related activities and interactions with the League of Arab States.

CIHRS also operates an office in Geneva that provides for proximity and continued involvement in the process at the UN Human Rights Council, where the organisation holds observer status and currently has a permanent representative in Brussels that furthers CIHRS and its partner’s goals and outreach within European Union institutions.

East and Horn of Africa

DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) seeks to strengthen the work of HRDs throughout the region by reducing their vulnerability to the risk of persecution and by enhancing their capacity to effectively defend human rights. DefendDefenders focuses its work on Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia (together with Somaliland), Sout`h Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Many countries in this sub-region have experienced massive human rights abuses, long-term and large-scale impunity, single-party and military dictatorships, civil wars, and in the case of Somalia, a collapsed state. These situations and contexts render both the work and lives of human rights defenders particularly challenging. This project was established in 2005 following extensive field research in the region, which identified the most pressing and unmet needs of HRDs in order to overcome some of the resulting challenges.

DefendDefenders serves as the secretariat of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net) representing 78 organisational and individual members. EHAHRD-Net envisions a region in which the human rights of every citizen, as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are respected and upheld. Its mission is to maximize the protection of HRDs working in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region and to enhance the awareness of human rights work through linkages with national, regional and international like-minded entities.

In addition, DefendDefenders also serves as the Secretariat of the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network.

Southern Africa

The Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) is a regional network comprising representatives of human rights organisations in ten countries in Southern Africa. It was established in February 2013. Its primary mandate is to coordinate, at a regional level, the protection and security of HRDs and enhance their ability – through litigation, capacitation and advocacy initiatives – to carry on with their work in their particular countries in the face of state-driven or supported repression. The secretariat of SAHRDN is hosted by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR). ZLHR is a non-partisan, not for profit law-based human rights organisation whose core objective is to foster a culture of human rights in Zimbabwe and in the region.

West Africa

Created in May 2005, the West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH / WAHRDN) is a non-governmental organisation that promotes the work of HRDs. It is composed of the National Coalitions for Human Rights and individual focal points in six countries. ROADDH has observer status to the ACHPR and is a member of the executive committee of the NGO Forum at the ACHPR. It’s also a member of the Human Rights Council Network (HRC Net), which is composed of regional and international NGOs, in order to conduct advocacy and lobbying activities at the UN Human Rights Council.

Through its advocacy efforts, ROADDH aims to shape domestic and foreign policy of the West African countries and to contribute to establishing the rights of law. The network’s strategy is based on close cooperation with the diplomatic representations, foreign ministries, National Commissions of Human Rights and regional and international human rights mechanisms to further the safe working environment of HRDs.

ROADDH covers Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Soa Tome and Principe. 

Central Africa 

The Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC) accompanies and reinforces the work HRDs with the aim to mitigate their vulnerabilities and risks. This multifaceted support reinforces their capacities and encourages them to carry out their work of promoting and defending human rights.

REDHAC covers eight countries, many of which have experienced massive violations of human rights with complete impunity and represents over 200 members, including HRDs, lawyers, and journalists. Its vision is to promote, train and support HRDs, preserve solidarity among them, and defend their rights whenever these are under pressure.