Feminist Foreign Policy Working Group report presents recommendations on human rights defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

On February 2, the Feminist Foreign Policy Working Group released Be Brave, Be Bold: Recommendations for Canada’s feminist foreign policy.

We have taken note of the recommendations within it specifically related to human rights defenders and encourage you to read the full 26 page report:

1- Strengthen implementation of the Voices at Risk Guidelines on supporting human rights defenders, make funds more easily accessible to support human rights defenders at risk, implement a relocation mechanism for human rights defenders at risk (including those unable to register with UNHCR), and create a mechanism to support human rights defenders once they have relocated to Canada.  

– Jacqueline Hansen, Amnesty International Canada

2- Allocate specific resources to remove obstacles inhibiting the effective and meaningful participation of marginalized groups, including but not limited to women and girls, LGBTI people, people living with disabilities, youth, Indigenous people, racialized people, ethnic and religious minorities, and human rights defenders in negotiations, conversations and processes in trade, defense, aid, diplomacy, peace and security.

– Odette McCarthy & Libertad Benito Torres, Equitas

3- Develop innovative strategies to protect the space for civil society organizations (including women human rights defenders and LGBTI rights defenders) and movements around the world, by building alliances with like-minded governments and following the lead of civil society organizations.

– Beth Woroniuk, Equality Fund

4- At minimum, Canada must be conscious of the safety concerns of human rights defenders and must offer them residency status in Canada. At best, Canada would support and protect human rights defenders in Canada, thus strengthening its foreign policy and commitment to human rights globally.

– Nadia Abu-Zahra, Joint Chair in Women’s Studies, Carleton University & University of Ottawa

5- Human rights defenders advocating for environmental protection and in support of their rights to territory, land, and water- often in the face of intensive resource development projects – face increasing criminalization, threats, and violence around the world. Women, Indigenous women and LGBTI peoples who defend land and water are disproportionately targeted. Climate financing initiatives must recognize the threats to these activists and must include direct support to them. Canada’s actions in support of human rights defenders must address the increasing risks to territory, land, and water defenders in Canada and around the world, the human rights abuses committed by Canadian companies, and must include concrete measures, including funding, to enable these courageous activists to carry out their work in safety and dignity.

– Feminist Foreign Policy Working Group

There are other key recommendations in the report including “adopt measures to prevent and remedy harm caused overseas by Canadian companies and their affiliates” (Laura Macdonald, Carleton University & Karyn Keenan, Above Ground) and “reduce military spending and redirect resources toward education, health, human rights, environmental protection, and housing, among other initiatives that promote human security” (Allison Pytlak Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom).

It is also noted within the companion document What We Heard: “Recognize climate change’s disproportionate impacts on women and support the feminist and women’s rights organizations leading this work.”

This extends to the risks faced by women environmental human rights defenders. Last year, a study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature noted that: “There have also been numerous examples of gender-based violence directed against environmental defenders and activists, who try to stop the destruction or degradation of their land, natural resources and communities. Sexual violence is used to suppress them, undermine their status within the community and discourage others from coming forward.”

We welcome the recommendations of the Feminist Foreign Policy Working Group and encourage you to read the full report at Be Brave, Be Bold: Recommendations for Canada’s feminist foreign policy.

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