Protection International and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mrs. Margaret Sekaggya, held the roundtable “National mechanisms and national public policies for the protection of human rights defenders: Reflections on current developments and ways ahead” in Geneva, Switzerland, last 18 June.

Protection International has been encouraged not only by the positive response from governments and international, regional and non-governmental organisations, but also by the lively discussions among participants. The debate allowed to cast some light on the challenges lying ahead to ensure protection on HRDs. Experience shows that effective protection mechanisms encompass pieces of legislation as well as adequate technical tools for systematically assessing risks and threats; moreover, HRDs’ protection has to be adapted to the specific needs of the defenders. Both issues require the active involvement of civil society in the setting up of the mechanisms. The involvement of national human rights institutions as a channel between civil society and government needs to be explored further. Finally, national mechanisms will only be window-dressing if authorities do not fight forcefully against impunity regarding crimes against defenders.

Protection International hopes that the roundtable in Geneva will spark the interest of governments, regional and international organisations on the creation of national mechanisms for the protection of HRDs while fostering collaboration among defenders, duty-bearers and key stakeholders for the establishment of more effective and efficient tools for the protection of HRDs on the ground.

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