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AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network) is a network of five African sub-regional organisations, dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) across the African continent. DefendDefenders is a member of AfricanDefenders


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.


North Africa – Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Founded in 1993, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) is an independent regional non-governmental organisation which aims to promote respect for the principles of human rights and democracy in the Arab region. For this purpose, CIHRS focuses on analyzing the difficulties facing the application of international human rights law, disseminating a culture of respect for human rights in the region, and engaging in dialogue between cultures regarding the various international human rights treaties and declarations. CIHRS further 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 with national, regional, and international human rights mechanisms, carries out research, and provides human rights education, both for youth and for established human rights defenders seeking ongoing professional development. CIHRS is a major publisher of information related to human rights in the Arab region, and its publications include a magazine, an academic quarterly, and scores of books dealing with various human rights-related issues.

Southern Africa – Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network

The Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) is the regional human rights defenders (HRD) network comprising of representatives from human rights organisations in ten countries in Southern Africa. It was established in February 2013 with the primary mandate to coordinate the protection and security of HRDs in the region, and to enhance their ability to work in their particular countries, in the face of state-driven or supported repression. The secretariat of SAHRDN is hosted by the South African office of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), an organisation defending human rights and the rule of law worldwide.

West Africa – West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN/ROADDH)

Created in May 2005, the West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN/ROADDH) is a non-governmental organisation that promotes the work of human rights defenders (HRDs). It is composed of national coalitions for human rights and individual focal points. WAHRDN has observer status to the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and it is a member of the executive committee of the NGO Forum at the ACHPR. It is also a member of the Human Rights Council Network (HRC Net), which is composed of regional and international NGOs conducting advocacy and lobbying activities at the UN Human Rights Council.

Through its advocacy efforts, WAHRDN aims to shape the domestic and foreign policy of West African countries in line with human rights standards, and to strengthen the rule of law. The networks’ strategy is based on close cooperation with diplomatic representations, foreign ministries, National Human Rights Institutions, and regional and international human rights mechanisms to foster a safe working environment for HRDs.

Central Africa
 – Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

The Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale – REDHAC) is AfricanDefenders’ member in Central Africa, based in Douala, Cameroon. REDHAC accompanies and reinforces the work of human rights defenders (HRDs) with the aim to mitigate their vulnerabilities and risks, and raise awareness of the human rights situation in the sub-region. Its vision is to promote, train and support HRDs, foster solidarity among them, and defend their rights whenever these are under pressure.

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.