Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders: implementing OSCE and international commitments

Throughout the years, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has adopted several commitments that can apply to human rights defenders:

- Concluding Document of Vienna, Third Follow up Meeting, January 15, 1989
- Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE, June 29, 1990
- Charter of Paris for a New Europe, November 21, 1990
- Document of the Moscow Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE, October 3, 1991
- Concluding Document of Helsinki, Fourth Follow up Meeting, July 10, 1992
- Concluding Document of Budapest, December 6, 1994.

On July 10, 2007, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly decided to “reaffirm the important role of human rights defenders and national human rights institutions in protecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms at the 2007 Ministerial Council [...]” [1].

As human rights defenders in some OSCE participating States continue to report difficulties in exercising their right to assemble and associate, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has developed activities in terms of freedoms of assembly and association.

Since 2007, an explicit competence was given to ODIHR in terms of protection of human rights defenders through the creation of a focal point on the issue.

Creation of a Focal Point for Human Rights Defenders and National Human Rights Institutions

Building on ongoing work across all of its programmes, and following a recommendation from the 2006 Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Human Rights Defenders and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), in 2007 the ODIHR established a Focal Point for Human Rights Defenders and National Human Rights Institutions.

The Focal Point closely monitors the situation of human rights defenders, identifies issues of concern, and seeks to promote and protect their interests.

The Focal Point also aims at increasing capacity of human rights defenders to improve their knowledge of human rights standards, advocacy, monitoring and strategy formulation skills as well as general capacity to protect and promote human rights.

The Focal Point’s work is carried out in close co-operation and consultation with other international organizations, in particular the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders. Situations where human rights defenders are at risk are discussed among all three organizations and interventions are designed in close co-ordination.

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