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5/4/2017
United Nations Geneva
© wikimedia/Henry Mühlpfordt/Henry Mühlpfordt

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Statement released on Human Rights Defenders and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

A statement on Human Rights Defenders and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was released by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). The statement highlights 8 points of interest on the subject, which specifies the States' reponsibility for the protection of human rights defenders within the countries. 

1. The contribution of civil society is essential to the effective promotion, protection and realization of economic, social and cultural rights

2. The active involvement of civil society in the work of the Committee has also proved essential for the wide dissemination of information about the Covenant and the Committee’s work on all levels.

3. Human rights defenders can be any individual or group working to protect and promote human rights, including those enshrined in the Convenant

4. Some of the Human Rights Defenders often face risks and threats as a consequence of their work; in 2015, the current Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders identified those working to defend economic, social and cultural rights as one of the most at-risk groups of defenders

5. The importance of human rights defenders, including those working in the field of economic, social and cultural rights, being able to work freely without any threat or fear, and the responsibility and obligation of the States to ensure their protection.

6. Similarly, the States have the responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders are effectively protected against any and all forms of abuse, violence and reprisal which they might experience while carrying out their work to promote the realization of these rights.

7. The international community should deal with all human rights defenders, including those working on economic, social and cultural rights, in a fair, equal and even-handed manner.

8. While the specific measures that States should adopt to safeguard the work of human rights defenders are dependent on national circumstances, the following measures are of crucial importance: (i) Public recognition and commitment to a zero-tolerance of threatening behaviour against human rights defenders; (ii) Repeal of State legislation intended to penalise or obstruct their work; (iii) strengthening of State institutions responsible for safeguarding the work of defenders; (iv) investigation and punishment of violence against defenders;  (v) adoption and implementation of well resourced programmes to ensure adequate protection measures. 

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by its States parties. The Committee was established under ECOSOC Resolution 1985/17 of 28 May 1985 to carry out the monitoring functions assigned to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Part IV of the Covenant.

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