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Human rights defenders – who by peaceful means advocate, mobilise and often put their lives at risk to defend the most fundamental freedoms of their fellow citizens – are key agents of change in their own societies and make a significant contribution to the international community's efforts to support democracy and human rights. Defenders often face serious threats and can experience harm by state and non-state actors.
Since the United Nations General Assembly's adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998, there has been considerable effort to recognise and protect the right of individuals, groups and communities to promote and protect their own rights and the rights of others. Over time, a multi-level, multi-actor international protection regime for the rights of human rights defenders has emerged, which is based on existing rights derived from the international human rights regime.
The authors in this book reflect on the positive developments that have emerged over time to strengthen the protection of defenders, as well as the debates, tensions and contestations in such practices. This collection provides a critical appraisal of the construction, function, ethical boundaries, and evolution of this protection regime, as well as its multi-scalar social and political effects. In particular, the authors consider the effectiveness of particular international and regional protection mechanisms for the protection of defenders, and examine the relationship between repression, activism, and tactics for managing risks in the face of danger. This book was originally published as a special issue of the International Journal of Human Rights.