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Support of Human Rights Defenders

“When the rights of human rights defenders are violated, all our rights are put in jeopardy – and all of us are made less safe.” – Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations

Human rights defenders work to strengthen the protection and realization of human rights of others. They work at national and international levels, either individually or with others. In many parts of the world, defending human rights is one of the most dangerous things you can do. You can rarely open a newspaper without reading about and being reminded of the threats and attacks on human rights defenders.

Denmark has committed to support Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. This Declaration was adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly in 1998, and it remains the normative basis for international efforts for human rights defenders.

The Declaration has been translated into several local languages by the Human Rights Centre Uganda. The UN has also established a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. This post is currently held by Margaret Sekaggya from Uganda who had her mandate extended for a period of three years by the Human Rights Council on 24 March 2011. The Special Rapporteur is an important actor in efforts to improve the situation of human rights defenders in all parts of the world. See more information about the Special Rapporteur and her mandate in the link below.

But what does the UN Declaration mean in practical terms? The EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders provide a practical template to improve European Union (EU) action on the ground, including efforts by EU embassies. In 2010, the EU missions and the EU delegation in Kampala decided to look at ways of implementing the EU Guidelines in their work in Uganda.

They were supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy since Norway has similar Guidelines. A consultation process included meetings with other relevant stakeholders, including civil society and the UN. The efforts resulted in The Local Implementation Strategy where you can find more detailed information, including:

  • Who should you contact in an emergency regarding a HRD? 
  • What can the embassies in Kampala do for HRDs? 
  • What funding opportunities and prizes are available to HRDs? 
  • Which international organisations provide support to HRDs?

Key dates of interest to HRDs:

  • International Women's Day – 8th March
  • World Press Freedom Day – 3rd May
  • International Day Against Homophobia – 17th May
  • International Day Against the Death Penalty – 10th October
  • International Women Human Rights Defenders Day – 29th November
  • International Human Rights Defenders Day – 9th December
  • International Human Rights Day – 10 December

24 Hour Emergency Hotline Number for Human Rights Defenders: (+256) 0783 027 611.


Danish support helping Human Rights Defenders

The definition of human rights defenders in the EU Guidelines is a broad one based on that of the UN Declaration on human rights and defenders. HRDs are those individuals, groups and organs of society that promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms. On an institutional level the HRDs in Uganda inter alia include government agencies within the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) such as the Judiciary. However, the key player in this regard is the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) that has an important role in promoting and protecting human rights and support other HRDs.

Both the judiciary and the UHRC have been key partners to the Danish Embassy for more than ten years and the Danish Embassy has a good and close working relationship with these partners. This is also reflected in the decision to continue support to these institutions in the Uganda Good Governance (UGOGO) Programme.

The support to the UHRC has been instrumental in successfully turning it around and it stands out as a good example on how capacity building in practice can lead to developing an institution to deliver on human right promotion and protection in Uganda. The UHRC has come from being a week and inefficient institution to now being one of only three A-level human rights commissions in Africa. The improved capacity and independence was manifest in the UHRC annual report for 2009, which in a very clear assessment determined that the draft Anti-Homosexuality Bill violates the Ugandan Constitution and several international agreements. Also the number of human rights complaints resolved rose from 454 in 2008 to 498 in 2009, equivalent to a 10 % increase.

The Danish support to the Ugandan Judiciary has contributed to a Judiciary being widely appreciated as independent and as one of the strongest members of the JLOS. The support has been complemented by funding to the Legal Aid Basket Fund that has provided legal aid and awareness training to 3.3 million Ugandans (10 % of the entire population).

Denmark has also been one of the main contributors to the Independent Development Fund that in 2010 offered assistance to a wide range of CSOs working on human rights thereby providing human rights awareness to several thousand of people. Finally, Denmark has contributed significant amounts to several larger human rights NGOs in Uganda and has seen these improve their capacity to advocate, report and monitor the human rights situation in Uganda. 



For more information please contact:
Majbrit Holm Jakobsen