Public Policies

We firmly believe that the protection of HRDs should be rooted in a public policy approach, which provides the framework for the actions taken by the authorities to protect the right to defend human rights.

We monitor from a critical perspective the development, implementation and impact of public policies for the protection of human right defenders (HRDs). We have also undertaken research and systematisation of good practices and lessons learned, from which we have drawn different publications

Acting as road maps, public policies need to be designed, implemented, regularly evaluated and corrected when necessary. The process is subject to political influence, a factor that should be offset by incorporating technical procedures and expertise drawn not only from government but also from the participation of national and (in some cases) international civil society organisations and human rights defenders, see graphic:

Consequently, the adoption of laws for the protection of HRDs might be one – but not the only – response of state authorities to the threats and risks faced by HRDs. Indeed, responses of this kind may be converted into dead letters if the protection programme, the resources required to implement it and the criteria used to evaluate its effectiveness are not clearly established, and if space is not made available at all stages for the participation of civil society.

The obligation of states to protect HRDs has been recognised both by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and in the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights  (IACtHR). Based on PI expert advice in two emblematic cases against the states of Honduras and Guatemala, respectively, the IACtHR rulings provided guidance on at least seven minimum requirements for HRD protection public policies: 

The challenge is to translate these obligations into effective public policies that States can implement to adequately guarantee the right to defend human rights.


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