PBI; Peace Brigades International 30th Anniversary Conference, 19 October, 2011, Switzerland 03 de octubre de 2011

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URGENT ACTION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AC GREETS PBI FOR YOUR GREAT WORK AND MAKE YOUR COMMITMENT TO THE DEFENSE OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN MEXICO AND IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES ARE PRESENT. CONGRATULATIONS

This conference will bring together Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), civil society organisations working to protect HRDs, policy makers, government human rights specialists and UN staff to share the different ways in which they can improve the prevention of attacks against and protection for HRDS. It is one of four complementary conferences organised, by PBI Switzerland, PBI Germany, PBI Catalonia and PBI UK to mark PBI’s 30th anniversary. The recommendations these conferences produce will be consolidated into a single document which we hope will contribute to improving the effectiveness of prevention and protection mechanisms for HRDs.

Conference Outline and Programme
Conference Speakers
Conference Registration
Conference Venue

Background, Goal and Content of the Conference

This conference will bring together Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), civil society organisations working to protect HRDs, policy makers, government human rights specialists and UN staff to share the different ways in which they can improve the prevention of attacks against and protection for HRDS. It is one of four complementary conferences organised, by PBI Switzerland, PBI Germany, PBI Catalonia and PBI UK to mark PBI’s 30th anniversary. The recommendations these conferences produce will be consolidated into a single document which we hope will contribute to improving the effectiveness of prevention and protection mechanisms for HRDs.

Download conference programme (pdf), conference concept (pdf)

HRDs play an important role in society and politics promoting and defending the fundamental rights enshrined in the United Nations Charter and other instruments and mechanisms that together make up the body of international and, increasingly, domestic law. HRDs contribute significantly to processes of change by promoting and defending human rights and advocating for social justice. The reevaluation of past and recent human rights violations and the call for an end to impunity are examples of the impact of their work. Nevertheless, the daily threats faced by reduce their room for action. Protection for HRDs is therefore integral to the development of peaceful societies.

The importance of protecting HRDs is internationally recognised. Examples of this are the 1998 UN declaration on human rights defenders and the 2004 EU guidelines (updated in 2008), the UN Rapporteurship on HRDs and the recently created OAS Special Rapporteur on HRDs. These developments have been accompanied by a growing understanding of population groups who have a right to protection, such as defenders of economic, social and cultural rights, women HRDs and those who defend and promote LGBTI rights.

Despite these efforts, in many countries there has been no discernible improvement in the circumstances in which HRDs develop their work. This brings into question the efficiency and sustainability of existing mechanisms and highlights the importance of continued efforts to develop processes and instruments to protect the working environment of HRDs and to combat the threats they face.

HRDs operate in diverse political, cultural and socio-economic contexts. The absence of official constitutional structures and deeply rooted cultures of impunity often impede access to justice and adequate legal representation for the victims of human rights violations. Under such circumstances HRDs are frequently the targets of threats and attacks, and influential elites are increasingly implementing new strategies involving the criminalisation and defamation of HRDs.

Over recent years HRDs, activists and the international community have been actively engaged in reviewing existing human rights mechanisms. These initiatives include the ongoing review of the Human Rights Council and the UN Special Mechanisms. There is a growing consensus that there is a disturbing gap between the recommendations made to states and their effects on the ground; there is also increasing concern at the reprisals to which HRDs who cooperate with international human rights bodies are frequently subjected.

These developments, along with the increasing visibility and importance of international protection mechanisms for HRDs, form the background to this one-day conference. What improvements have activists and representatives from Switzerland, PBI project countries, the UN, and NGOs seen over the last 30 years? How can we work together to improve international protection mechanisms for HRDs in the various contexts where they work?

The main instrument that Peace Brigades International has successfully implemented in many different countries during its 30 years of existence is protective accompaniment provided by international volunteers backed up by an international network of supporters and allies and by systematic advocacy activities. This conference, which coincides with our 30th anniversary, offers an important opportunity to discuss the concept of protective accompaniment and other protection mechanisms and to evaluate whether threats emanating from state and non-state actors can be effectively deterred. We hope the debates and discussions – and especially the outcomes – of this conference will contribute to improving protection for HRDs.
Donors

The realisation of the conference has been enabled thanks to the generous support of the following:

Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations Office and to the other international organisations in Geneva
Loterie Romande
État de Genève - Service de la Solidarité Internationale
Ville de Genève

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