Norway’s resolution on the protection of human rights defenders adopted by UN Human Rights Committee
In October 2019, Norway announced, “A year after the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, Norway will introduce a General Assembly resolution focusing on implementation. Protection as well as creating a safe and enabling environment is key for human rights defenders.”
Norway’s Ambassador to the United Nations Mona Juul stated, “It is important to support human rights defenders currently facing unprecedented pressure.”
Juul then highlighted “the need to step up the implementation of the Declaration, including by providing a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and strengthening protection measures.”
The Zero Draft of that resolution lists 21 recommendations including (#12): “Calls upon States to take concrete steps to prevent and put an end to arbitrary arrest and detention, including of human rights defenders, and in this regard strongly urges the release of persons detained or imprisoned…”
On November 19, 2019, Norway announced, “A Norwegian-led resolution on human rights defenders has been adopted by consensus in the UN Human Rights Committee.”
This International Service for Human Rights statement notes that the final resolution passed “following weeks of negotiation” included acknowledgement of “the need for improved data on killings, kidnappings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture and other harmful acts against HRDs.”
Canadian tools for human rights defenders
The primary tools the Government of Canada has for the protection of human rights defenders are the voluntary guidelines for Canadian missions outlined in Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders as well as the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise.
Voices at Risk
Human rights organizations in Canada have noted, “For Canada’s new guidelines to be effective in helping to protect and support human rights defenders, they will need to be accompanied by a comprehensive implementation plan and increased Canadian funding going directly to human rights defenders and the movements they represent.”
The lack of investigatory powers for the Ombudsperson prompted the resignation of fourteen civil society and labour union representatives from the government’s Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Body on Responsible Business Conduct Abroad.
Emily Dwyer of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability has commented, “Without independence and investigatory powers, the CORE amounts to nothing more than a broken promise. A powerless CORE won’t serve impacted communities.”
Furthemore, a United Nations media release noted, “[UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle] Bachelet welcomed Canada’s continued commitment to advancing responsible business conduct abroad and the recent appointment of an Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. She encouraged the authorities to ensure the Ombudsperson will have sufficient powers to independently and effectively investigate allegations of human rights abuses under its mandate.”
And just last month, Canadian civil society groups released this Approach with Caution notice to communities about the Ombudsperson.
That notice highlights, “The CORE’s mandate is similar to Canada’s National Contact Point for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (NCP), which is listed on the CORE’s website as a ‘partner’.”
It adds, “Communities and workers have found that complaints to Canada’s NCP yield no improvement to their situation and sometimes even make their situation worse, after consuming months or years of community time and resources.”
Canada seeks a UN Security Council seat
The CBC now reports, “Canada is in a tight fight with Norway and Ireland for the two non-permanent seats out of 10 on the 15-member council that are reserved for Western countries.” The vote for the seat that the Trudeau government has spent more than $1.5 million to win is set to take place on June 17.
To send a message to the Prime Minister asking him to take immediate action on a UN resolution in support of Wet’suwet’en land defenders, please go to this PBI-Canada Urgent Action.