Throughout the year, EHAHRDP has reported on the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists, and increasing attempts by state and non-state actors to undermine and disrupt the activities of civil society. We have also seen HRDs who continue to place themselves on the frontline of human rights protection, often at intolerable risks to their own safety. From South Sudan to Burundi to Ethiopia, the operating environment for human rights activism continues to shrink. It is in this context that EHAHRDP, and our many network members, have innovated and adapted to a new- and generally worsening- climate for HRDs. This report shares with you snapshots of this year’s milestone achievements towards the promotion and protection of the rights of human rights defenders across the African region as well as some of the challenges we have come across in 2014.
In the field of Advocacy and Research, EHAHRDP continued to raise awareness of the situation of HRDs in the sub-region at national, regional and international levels. We have worked consistently to raise the profile of HRDs at the national, regional, and international level. We attended, and supported HRDs to engage at the 25th, 26th, and 27th Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We have intervened- both privately, and through numerous public statements, to address urgent issues and areas of concern for HRDs across the region. EHARHRDP undertook unprecedented research into the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, a follow up research on the situation of HRDs in South Sudan, as well as a special report on HRDs fighting sexual violence in Somalia.
In 2014 the capacity building department conducted numerous trainings including follow-ups for HRDs reaching over 300 direct beneficiaries. The now fully fledged ICT department also conducted 15 digital security trainings, including for the first time training of trainers in 4 instances for activists from 9 different countries. Over the course of the year, the Somalia Protection Program for HRDs, which is being implemented in Mogadishu in collaboration with our local partners, concentrated on building the security management and protection work capacity in Somalia.
We cannot talk about this past year without highlighting our flagship Protection Program which continues to support HRDs at risk to enable them overcome the risks they are facing. EHAHRDP’s Protection program was set up to ensure effective response to requests for assistance from HRDs at risk. The cases of HRDs that we have handled over the past year have increased in number and reach-in 2014 alone, we received over 300 requests from 10 countries for direct emergency assistance. Since integrating the work of former Protection Desk Uganda to EHAHRDP in early 2013, the new Security Management Officers (whose titles are now Capacity Building Officers) pursued implemention of activities on security management for HRDs in the region through basic tools on risk assessment and setting security plans for HRDs and their institutions alongeside digital security training.
The Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network’s (PAHRD-Net) continues to provide protection and capacity building to HRDs across Africa as well as joint advocacy missions with sub-regional networks. Of particular relevance, PAHRDN/EHAHRDP conducted an advocacy mission to USA ahead of the US-Africa leaders’ summit which was followed by EHAHRDP’s attendance of the civil space session at US-Africa leaders’ Summit. Litigation, petitions and trial observations have been conducted over the course of the year for HRDs from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Sudan and Swaziland.
Amidst all these accomplishments, there is still work to be done. Human rights defenders, whether individuals, civil society organizations, lawyers or journalists have a crucial role in Africa’s development.
As we prepare to celebrate our ten year anniversary in 2015 we are energized by our successes in 2014. Throughout 2015, we will be marking this landmark anniversary with a series of events and initiatives. Much has changed in the sub-region over the last decade, and the need for a vibrant, protected, and well-resourced community of HRDs has never been greater.
On behalf of the entire EHAHRDP team, I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all our partners who have supported us throughout the year including our board members.
Yours in solidarity,