States Should Ensure an Enabling Environment for Human Rights Defenders

On Human Rights Day, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project commemorates the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and yesterday’s 15th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and calls on states to intensify their efforts to fulfill their responsibility to promote and protect all human rights.

The UN General Assembly 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 on 9th December 1998. More commonly known as the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, it reaffirms the rights that are necessary for the defence of human rights and reiterates the rights of everyone, 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.

Certain groups of human rights defenders face particular challenges in seeking to exercise their rights. For example, the situation of women human rights defenders has been in the global spotlight this year, with the adoption of a landmark resolution on the protection of WHRDs by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly. The resolution calls upon states to promote, translate and give full effect to the UN Declaration on HRDs, including by taking appropriate, robust and practical steps to protect WHRDs. It urges states to publicly acknowledge the legitimate role of women human rights defenders by publicly condemning violence and discrimination against WHRDs, and to protect WHRDs from reprisals for cooperating with the UN. States are urged to adopt and implement policies and programmes that provide WHRDs with access to effective remedies, and to ensure their effective participation in all initiatives.

During the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, which began with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25th November and which culminates on Human Rights Day today, EHAHRDP carried out a social media campaign to honour and highlight the important work of women human rights defenders in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The importance and value of the work of WHRDs was also recently highlighted during the inaugural African Human Rights Defenders Award in October 2013, when four of the five sub-regional awards were received by women human rights defenders.

EHAHRDP calls on all states to respect and fully implement the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, as well as the recent resolution on the protection of women human rights defenders, in order to promote an enabling environment for the defence of human rights in all countries.

Please see or for more on EHAHRDP campaign to honour the work of women human rights defenders.

For more information, please contact:

Hassan Shire, Executive Director on [email protected] or + 256 772 753 753

Rachel Nicholson, Advocacy Officer on [email protected] or +256 778 921 274




Human Rights Defender of the month: Kasale Maleton Mwaana

Kasale’s human rights activism precedes his years. The son of pastoralist parents from Ngorongoro district in northern Tanzania, he grew up seeing his parents and entire community having to defend their land and way of life against authorities who thought their lands could be put to better use. Now, at 25, Kasale is already one of the most recognizable advocates of his people’s cause, much to the ire of Tanzanian authorities.
“Our people’s struggle goes back many generations. It started with the pushing out of our forefathers from Serengeti to gazette Serengeti National Park in 1959, and then further evictions from the Ngorongoro crater to gazette the Ngorongoro conservation area in 1975. Since then, every generation has had to resist further evictions. It’s now my generation’s turn,” he says.