What is the BRAVE campaign?
BRAVE is our global campaign calling for the urgent protection of human rights defenders (HRDs).
All over the world, ordinary people with extraordinary passion are speaking out for freedom, justice and equality in their everyday lives – but they have never been in greater danger than they are now from those who want to silence them. Unprecedented numbers are being arrested, abused and even killed.
These people are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. People who are simply driven by the need to protect their families, their communities and themselves. They are human rights defenders, and the work they do is vital to protecting the rights we should all be able to take for granted.
As a world leader, the UK should be setting the standard for backing human rights defenders – but right now, the government lacks a clear strategy to support their work.
It’s time for the UK government to show the world that supporting human rights defenders is a priority.
The extent of the problem
Authorities worldwide are targeting HRDs and their organisations through law, policy and practice. This includes restrictions on funding, the freezing of assets, travel bans, reprisals against their families, surveillance and smear campaigns. Furthermore, the space in which they operate is being closed down: with over 249 restrictive legal initiatives recorded since 2012. Government officials may seek to justify such actions in the name of:
- Protecting national security
- Defending national sovereignty from the perceived malign influence of foreign funders, organisations and states
- Upholding traditional values and norms that do not allow for equality
- Promoting economic development through public and private corporations that exploit natural resources
Our December 2017 report, ‘Deadly but Preventable Attacks: Killings and Enforced Disappearances of Those who Defend Human Rights’, reveals that at least 3,500 human rights defenders have been killed since 1998 – an average of 180 deaths a year. If anything the situation is getting worse – in 2017 alone, more than 300 human rights defenders were killed. These numbers alone provide a clear indication of the unparalleled global assault we are witnessing.
More specifically, women human rights defenders (WHRDs) face gender-based violence in addition to the attacks other HRDs might face, including sexual violence, and threats, harassment and defamation campaigns linked to their status as women. Frequently, WHRDs are targeted not only because of their activism, but also because of their gender, and their activities are repeatedly delegitimised and denigrated. Those who challenge gender stereotypes and who work on issues like sexual and reproductive health and rights, or defend more widely the human rights of women and girls, are often especially at risk of gender-based threats and attacks.
What we're asking the UK Government
We're calling on the UK Government to prioritise its work to support human rights defenders in response to the unprecedented surge and global scale of attacks. This would include developing a coherent strategy. The prioritisation and strategy needs to have:
- Ministerial leadership
- Prioritisation in-country, through UK Embassies and High Commissions
- Significant funding
- A focus on women human rights defenders (WHRDs)
Whilst the UK Government is doing some good work in this area, the UK’s efforts remain inconsistent.
Right now the UK’s efforts in this area are variable and not strategic, in part due to: a lack of awareness or leadership on the issue, including in many embassies; inadequate consultation with human rights defenders; limited prioritisation by other UK government departments which operate abroad; and insufficient funding for HRDs.
But this is a global crisis, and the UK must respond with renewed efforts in order to ensure HRDs all over the world receive support consistently from the UK.
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