Freedom of Expression

Press release R343/21

Human rights experts urge States to protect at-risk civil society actors


GENEVA- WASHINGTON D.C. (10 December 2021) – UN and regional human rights experts* today issued a joint declaration calling on States to strengthen international efforts to support and protect civil society actors who are increasingly being targeted in repressive and life-threatening environments.


"Around the world, courageous individuals, and their organizations at the frontlines of the struggle for human rights are in desperate need of safe refuge and urgent life-saving humanitarian assistance yet face vast barriers to protection," said the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément N. Voule.


In the declaration, the experts called on States to uphold their international obligations and ease accessibility to international protection to civil society actors fleeing from violence, including recognition of refugee status and other forms of protection, such as expedited emergency visas.


It also provides recommendations to States to enhance coordination of diplomatic efforts to advocate for open civic space and to support civil society actors under threat.


"As many States join this week’s Summit for Democracy to address the deepening trends in democratic regression and rising authoritarianism, there is an opportunity to move from rhetoric into action," Voule said. "This joint declaration offers guidance on specific actions and commitments that States can immediately take to defend civic space and democracy across the world."



*The experts: Mr. Clément Voule, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and AssociationHon. Rémy Ngoy Lumbu, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Human Rights (ODIHR). Defenders and focal point for reprisals in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR); Mr. Pedro Vaca, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and and Human Rights (ODIHR).