This article was first published by the West African Human Rights Defenders Network.
20 years after the adoption of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders, where are we on the legal protection of defenders in West Africa? To assess the advancements and challenges that still remain in the region, ISHR in collaboration with the West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN), the Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (CIDDH) and HRCnet, is organising a workshop with defenders coming from all around the region.
For years, ISHR has been collaborating with partners in West Africa to strengthen the legal protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) in the region. As a result, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso adopted in 2014 and 2017 laws which specifically guarantee the protection and promotion of defenders. These unprecedented accomplishments paint a positive dynamic in the region towards the protection of defenders, when these past years have been challenged by the increased terrorist threats in the region.
What is the impact of these advancements in the effective protection of defenders? What are the challenges for their full implementation? How can civil society initiatives be strengthened so that they impact the implementation of these mechanisms? These are the questions we will try to answer during the workshop that will take place in Abidjan from 28 to 31 August 2018, in addition to celebrating these important achievements.
All while celebrating the important steps taken by some countries in the region, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights will meet with defenders from the region. He will also take this opportunity to particularly engage with defenders from Cote d’Ivoire to identify their needs as well as the impact and challenges in the implementation of the law and work collaboratively on action points to reinforce its effective implementation.
At the same time, as we celebrate the 20 years anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders, this workshop will be the opportunity to reflect on the evolution of the protection in West Africa since the adoption of the Declaration, take stock of the steps already taken by different countries to reinforce this protection and strategise to strengthen the protection of HRDs in the region. This will be done through an assessment of this protection and the international and local opportunities to improve it.
Finally, a video message recorded by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders from the United Nations presenting his mandate’s objectives as we celebrate the 20 years anniversary and encouraging the work of defenders in the region will be projected during the opening ceremony.