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Declaration+25: Articulating international standards to protect the right to defend rights

It has been 25 years since the adoption in 1998 of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders. The Declaration has reaffirmed that we all have the right to defend human rights. It is also a landmark document that sets out the rights and responsibilities of States, human rights defenders, and all actors in society in ensuring a safe environment where human rights defenders are recognised, valued, and encouraged to work for the promotion and protection of human rights.

Despite the UN Declaration’s influence, countries have not implemented it completely or effectively. Over the last 25 years, laws have evolved and new challenges have also emerged, reshaping the threats and obstacles faced by human rights defenders and the exercise of the right to defend human rights. 

As part of activities to mark the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders, last year 18 human rights organisations embarked on the Declaration+25 Project. During one year, we consulted more than 700 human rights defenders from various regions, working on diverse issues and with diverse identities, and worked with lawyers and human rights experts. We discussed the challenges and risks currently faced by human rights defenders and identified the areas of the UN Declaration that could be further elaborated to ensure their protection.

The outcome of all these discussions is what we’re calling the Declaration+25. This document is grounded in international law and takes into account international jurisprudence over the last 25 years, the evolutions of movements and activism as well as defenders’ lived experiences. It supplements the UN Declaration and is meant to be read alongside it. Together, they set the parameters and standards to protect the right to defend rights and those who exercise it today and for the next 25 years and beyond.

The Declaration+25 was launched on 19 June 2024 and is intended to serve as a call to action, encouraging everyone – governments, global and regional organisations, all of us – to work together to keep the Declaration (and the Declaration+25) a powerful, up-to-date, and effective tool for protecting and supporting the right to defend rights.