12/05/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 12/06/2021 02:51
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Protecting and supporting human rights defenders is a key priority of U.S. foreign policy. Because human rights defenders seek to hold their governments accountable to protect universally recognized human rights, defenders are often harassed, detained, interrogated, imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for doing their work. The Department's objective is to enable human rights defenders to promote and defend human rights without hindrance or undue restriction and free from fear of retribution against them or their families. The work of these brave individuals and groups is an integral part of a vibrant civil society, and our investment in and support of them is likewise an investment in and support of the rule of law and democracy.
Every day, around the world, many in civil society turn to us for assistance in emergency situations and to help them achieve longer-term goals that will make their countries more just and democratic.
Our Tradition of Respecting and Protecting Human Rights, Both at Home and Abroad
The desire to live freely under a government that respects and protects fundamental freedoms and human rights was the primary motivation of the founders of the United States. Human rights have not only been part of the United States since its beginning - they were the reason our nation was created. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments protect many rights that, in the twentieth century, became recognized and protected in international human rights instruments, and the United States has played a central role in advancing these rights through the Universal Declaration on Human Rights , ensuing covenants, and beyond.
It is important that we stand beside those who, sometimes at great risk to themselves, work to ensure that their governments protect and promote human rights and implement their human rights obligations and commitments. This belief is the impetus for the U.S. government's support of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders , which was adopted by consensus of the General Assembly in 1998, and our continued engagement to protect and promote fundamental freedoms and the role of human rights defenders both bilaterally and in multilateral fora.
A Human Rights Defender Is…
Following the principle set forth in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders that "everyone has the right, 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," the Department defines human rights defenders as individuals, working alone or in groups, who non-violently advocate for the promotion and protection of universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Defenders can be of any ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious denomination, or age. They can come from any part of the world, and from any social class or background, and also can be a person with a disability. How individual defenders promote and protect human rights also varies across country, context, and profession and can include, but is not limited to:
Strategies for Protecting and Supporting Human Rights Defenders
The Department of State protects and supports human rights defenders in a variety of ways, including:
Human Rights Defenders Guidance
The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to putting human rights and democratic principles at the center of our foreign policy. These Guidelines for U.S. Diplomatic Mission Support to Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders outline and amplify the U.S.'s commitment to supporting this vital work as part of the President's strategic vision and U.S. foreign policy. It is addressed primarily to both U.S. Department of State Human Rights Officers and members of civil society around the world, including human rights defenders.