As we speak, a resolution is being negotiated at the General Assembly in New York on the protection of women human rights defenders (WHRDs).  This is the first time women defenders have been the focus of a draft resolution at the United Nations. Such an initiative is the result of activists’ work over many years raising awareness about the challenges, risks and attacks faced by women human rights defenders and their specific protection needs.  The resolution would provide much needed recognition of WHRDs and their work, and would be an important tool in urging States to create enabling environments in which WHRDs can carry out their activities, free from intimidation, threats or attacks.


However, the text is under attack on several fronts, from a range of states.  

States need to hear that this resolution is about protecting women human rights defenders as they defend human rights (all human rights not only women’s rights). They need to be reminded that where women human rights defenders cannot do their work freely and without hindrance, the respect of human rights will continue to be undermined, and deep inequalities will persist in our societies.

Several states have in the past co-sponsored more general resolutions on human rights defenders. These States need to be encouraged to support this text, which for the first time focuses specifically on women human rights defenders. Support for resolutions on human rights defenders has been very uneven across certain groups. States particularly in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean need to be encouraged to stand up for women human rights defenders by engaging in these negotiations and supporting the text.

The negotiation is in the early stages but several points of contention have already arisen.

·         States keen on weakening the resolution want to see a greater emphasis on the ‘responsibilities’ of WHRDS, and on the need for WHRDs to act in accordance with national laws. However, the resolution itself makes clear that the work of WHRDs is to be carried out in the framework of the Declaration, so there is no need to include any further language on restrictions.

·         Several States are also proposing the deletion of a paragraph (currently operative paragraph no. 8) that contains language related to sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights and matters related to sexuality. This language has been agreed to repeatedly, including at the Commission on the Status of Women in 2013 (CSW), the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) in 2009 and 2012, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS. States need to be reminded of their commitment to these rights.


States need to hear from NGOs at national level about the importance of this resolution.

We need your VOICE! The following steps would be extremely helpful:

  • Contact Ministers of Foreign Affairs to encourage support for the strongest text on the protection of women human rights defenders.
  • Contact national human rights institutions – where this is useful.
  • Contact allied NGOs to carry out joint advocacy activities and amplify the messaging.


We need to mobilize at a national level as soon as possible to pressure States to support the resolution! Please write back to us at wluml@wluml.org with any feedback you receive from the outreach you do, and which countries in particular you plan to target.