The protection of human rights is one of the main pillars of Norwegian foreign policy, and providing support for human rights defenders is a central part of these efforts. The objective is that efforts to promote and defend human rights in all parts of the world can be carried out without restrictions or threats to human rights defenders or their families.

Human rights defenders are people who stand up for other people’s rights. By documenting and calling attention to states’ violations of their obligation to promote and respect human rights, they help to enhance the protection of human rights at the

local level. Support for human rights defenders is an investment in the rule of law and democracy.

Defending human rights can be difficult and even dangerous, especially for those who are raising human rights issues in their own country. Many receive threats to themselves and their families.

Many of you are involved, in different ways, in our efforts to support human rights defenders, and are doing important work at both country and multilateral level. We know that the attention and support of the international community not only encourages human rights defenders to keep up their efforts, but can also provide effective protection.

When it came to power, this Government signalled that it would strengthen support for human rights defenders, and we want you to give high priority to this work.
We have produced this new set of guidelines with a view to intensifying Norway’s efforts in this area. Our aim has been to provide sound, practical and relevant guidelines that will inspire you in your work. They are primarily intended as a practical guide for local human rights work, but should also form the basis of our efforts in multilateral forums, our human rights dialogues and our consultations at political level.

We ask you all to study these guidelines and make active use of them, and to consider what actions could be relevant in your field and at your place of work.
We look forward to working with you in our continued efforts to support human rights defenders.

Main objective

To support and protect human rights defenders who risk persecution or are otherwise hindered in their work.

Subsidiary aims

1. To raise the awareness of foreign service missions and encourage them to make more systematic efforts to observe, record and report on the situation of human rights defenders in the host country.
2. To improve the ability of foreign service missions to act quickly and effectively where appropriate.
3. To build competence and support-systems for these efforts in the foreign service.
4. To ensure that foreign service missions’ support for human rights defenders is highlighted in their human rights reporting, where it can provide important input to the development of Norway’s multilateral and bilateral international human rights policy.

International framework

The UN Declaration on human rights defenders was adopted in 1998 and forms the normative basis for our support for human rights defenders. The Declaration is enclosed with these guidelines. Norway chaired the UN working group that prepared the Declaration.
The UN adopts a resolution on human rights defenders every year. Norway is the main sponsor of the resolution.
In 2000, the UN Commission on Human Rights established a UN mandate for a special representative for human rights defenders, in response to a Norwegian initiative. Ms Hina Jilani (Pakistan) currently holds this post.