UN Human Rights Council – 40th regular session

Item 3: General debate  

Oral statement

Delivered by: Estella Kabachwezi


Mr. President,

In December 2018, DefendDefenders published a report on marginalised human rights defenders (HRDs) in East Africa. The report covers the situation of indigenous, women, and LGBT+ HRDs in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, and outlines recommendations to improve their protection and ad­dress their needs. Many of these def­enders face multifaceted threats, as well as disenfranchisement, with inter­secting forms of discrimination.

We welcome the work of the Human Rights Council to recognise and protect HRDs. We regret, however, that hostile amendments were tabled (and ultimately rejected) in March 2016, when the last sub­stantive resolution on HRDs, which addressed economic, social and cultural rights def­enders, was adopted. This issue should produce consensual outcomes, as an open civic space and a safe and enabling environment in which HRDs can operate free from hindrance and insecurity are key both to the realisation of substantive rights and to development. The Sustainable Deve­lopment Goals (SDGs) and the Agenda 2030 cannot be achieved without meaningful participation of, and respect for, civil society and HRDs. Development and respect for human rights are not mu­tually exclusive; but rather go hand in hand.

At this session, we call for the adoption of a strong, substantive resolution on environmental human rights defenders, which recognises the multiple threats they face and the legitimacy of their work, highlights their protection needs, and stresses the nexus between environmental rights, environ­mental defenders, and civic space.

Thank you for your attention.


Burundi: Extend CoI mandate for a further year

Ahead of the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, NGOs call on States to support a resolution extending the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi for a further year, until September 2020.

The UN offers a way forward for human rights in Eritrea

DefendDefenders welcomes the adoption of a resolution on Eritrea today at the UN Human Rights Council (“Council”). While making clear that diplomatic pro­gress in the Horn of Africa has not translated into domestic human rights pro­g­ress in Eri­t­rea, the Council offers a way forward for human rights reforms in the country by stream­lining its approach and providing the Eritrean government with an opportunity to engage.

By remaining silent on Sudan, the UN Human Rights Council validates the sidelining of human rights

After failing to convene an emergency session on Sudan in the aftermath of the 3 June massacre, and failing to hold an urgent debate during its 41st ongoing regular session, the UN Human Rights Council (“Council”) is set to fail to adopt a resolution on the coun­try. By remaining silent on Sudan, the Council validates the side­lining of human rights from the regional mediation process and overall political efforts to settle the crisis, Defend­Defenders said today.


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