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Human Rights Day 2010 on 10 December recognizes the work of human rights defenders worldwide who act to end discrimination.
Acting alone or in groups within their communities, every day human rights defenders work to end discrimination by campaigning for equitable and effective laws, reporting and investigating human rights violations and supporting victims.
While some human rights defenders are internationally renowned, many remain anonymous and undertake their work often at great personal risk to themselves and their families.
“Human rights defender is a title each and every one of us can earn. It is not a role that requires a professional qualification. What it depends on is regard for our fellow human beings, an understanding that we are all entitled to the full range of human rights and a commitment to seeing that ideal become a reality.”
Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Human rights are the foundation of freedom, peace, development and justice -- and the heart of the work of the United Nations around the world.
Laws to protect and promote human rights are indispensable. But quite often, progress comes down to people… courageous women and men… striving to protect their own rights and the rights of others… determined to make rights real in people’s lives.
It is these human rights defenders to whom we dedicate this year’s observance of Human Rights Day.
Defenders are a diverse group. They might be part of a civil society organization, a journalist or even a lone citizen, spurred to action by abuses close to home.
But they all share a commitment to expose wrongdoing, protect the most vulnerable and end impunity. They stand up, speak out -- and today they tweet -- in the name of freedom and human dignity..
Human rights defenders play a vital role in the fight against discrimination. They investigate violations and help victims gain justice and support.
Far too often, their work entails tremendous risk.
Defenders are harassed, stripped of their jobs and wrongfully imprisoned. In many countries, they are tortured, beaten and murdered.
Their friends and family members are also subjected to harassment and intimidation.
Women human rights defenders face additional risks, and therefore need additional support.
This Human Rights Day is an occasion to salute the courage and achievements of human rights defenders everywhere – and to pledge to do more to safeguard their work.
States bear the primary responsibility to protect human rights advocates. I call on all States to ensure the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly that make their work possible.
When the lives of human rights advocates are endangered, we are all less secure.
When the voices of human rights advocates are silenced, justice itself is drowned out.
On this Human Rights Day, let us be inspired by those seeking to make our world more just. And let us remember that everyone -- no matter their background, training or education -- can be a human rights champion.
So let us use that power. Let us each be a human rights defender.
Access the Secretary-General’s video message here
Read more about human rights defenders here
NEW: The Practitioners' Portal on HRBA (www.hrbaportal.org) is now online. Access practical resources on HRBA on the portal's thematic resource pages and visit the Huritalk Corner for archived messages and E-Discussions.