Awareness raising

By NHRI mandate

By topic

By country

Danish Institute for Human Rights

The Danish Institute for Human Rights publication “Furthering the right to defend rights through the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development” underlines states’ human rights obligations and political commitments within the 2030 Agenda. It also sets out how these promote and facilitate an enabling environment for human rights defenders and their work. 

The document stresses that human rights defenders should participate in planning and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals. It can also guide efforts towards comprehensive assessment of the enabling environment for human rights defenders, based on both human rights standards and SDG commitments. Various actors can make good use of the publication, including state institutions, local authorities, civil society, NHRIs, and human rights defenders.

Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia

In October 2020, the Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia organised an online meeting titled “Human Rights Defenders and the Challenges Faced by Them.” At the event, the NHRI presented an internal “Guide to Working on Issues relating to Human Rights Defenders.” The guide explains the concept of human rights defenders and outlines how the Georgian NHRI protects and promotes their rights (in reference to international practices and standards). The Guide is available in Georgian and English.

People’s Advocate of Albania

The law no. 91/2019 concerning audio-visual media banned media and journalists from physically attending meetings of Albania’s Parliamentary Committee. Following requests from journalists, the People’s Advocate of Albania monitored discussions between parliamentary representatives and journalists concerning the changes in the latter group’s participation. The NHRI also followed recommendations from other interest groups and international partners. The new proposal to amend the law was compared to other European regulations, and minor changes were made in relation to the use of mobile phones and video recording.

Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria

During mass anti-government protests in 2020, the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria received several complaints from individuals and civil society concerning violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to legal aid. Protesters were detained by police in Sofia on 10 July and 2 September 2020 in reportedly overcrowded premises and with no access to lawyers. The media published images of violence and presumably excessive use of force against protesters and reporters by law enforcement. The Ombudsman issued a public statement emphasising the need to ensure that any use of physical force and auxiliary means by law enforcement is proportionate and in line with national law and international and regional standards.

Greek National Commission for Human Rights

The Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR) closely monitors the execution of European Court of Human Rights judgments, including those related to human rights defenders. In August 2018, the GNCHR submitted to the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers its Recommendations under Rule 9(2) with regard to the immediate full compliance of the Greek government with the landmark Court judgment Chowdury and Others v. Greece (known as the “Manolada case”). Two years later, in June 2020, it made an additional Communication on the assessment of the level of compliance of the Greek State with the GNCHR’s recommendations on the Chowdury judgment.

In another emblematic case for the protection of human rights, the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) – an initiative of the Commission and UNHCR in Greece – activated the same procedure under Rule 9(2), in December 2020, by submitting a communication for the supervision of the execution of judgments and the terms of friendly settlements, relating to the case of Sakir v. Greece.

Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia

The Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia has drawn attention to the challenges and threats faced by human rights defenders and civil society in both Europe and Georgia. The Public Defender dedicated a chapter to this topic in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 annual reports it submitted to parliament. The reports underlined an increasing trend of verbal abuse, physical assaults, intimidation, and defamation, including by high-ranking political officials. Specifically, the reports pointed to challenges faced by women and LGBTI+ defenders and voiced concerns about cyber threats against and the bullying of human rights defenders. The reports analysed the rights of peaceful assembly, association and expression, as well as media freedom. The NHRI called on law enforcement agencies to undertake effective, timely investigations into any cases of human rights defenders at risk. It also provided recommendations to the government on the promotion and protection of human rights defenders.

Greek National Commission for Human Rights

In its submission to ENNHRI’s 2022 Rule of Law report, the Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR) expressed concern about an increasingly hostile environment for human rights defenders. This particularly affected organisations and activists working with refugees, migrants, and the LGBTI+ community. Consequently, the GNCHR approved in principle the adoption of a bill on “Recognition and Protection of Human Rights Defenders”. This was brought before the Commission’s Plenary by the Greek Transgender Support Association (SYD), a member of the Commission. The bill aims to ensure that human rights defenders are free from attacks, reprisals and unreasonable restrictions. Moreover, all human rights defenders should be able to work in a safe and supportive environment. In this context, the GNCHR considered establishing its own focal point for human rights defenders.

Federal Institute for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights

In its report to the UN Committee against Torture, the Federal Institute for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights criticised the use of the concepts of “radicalism” and “radicalisation” by Belgian authorities to preventatively manage the threat of terrorism. It highlighted the increasing tendency to use vague and ill-defined concepts to justify a variety of actions. These include bans on working in certain sensitive areas, refusal to grant Belgian nationality, the closure of establishments by local authorities, refusing to issue a Belgian passport or travel document, revoking residence permits, and expelling foreigners from Belgian territory.

French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights

In its opinion on Climate Emergency and Human Rights from May 2021, the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights dedicated a paragraph to human rights defenders involved in the fight against climate change and the protection of the environment. It stressed the importance of providing a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders to operate freely and without any restrictions. Based on the first report issued by the Observatoire des libertés associatives, the NHRI noted that human rights defenders in France – especially those working to protect the environment – find their activities are hindered. Obstacles to human rights defenders and civil society in France can take many forms. For example, they can be resource-related, judicial, administrative, police-related, or physical. In this regard, the Commission addressed the public authorities with two recommendations.

Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation

In recent years, the role of new electronic media, YouTube channels and bloggers has significantly expanded, covering meetings and events that remain outside the attention of traditional media. Although bloggers perform the same function as journalists, their work is not always perceived as journalistic activity. This deprives them of the protection set forth in the Law ‘On Mass Media’. This gap in legislation negatively affects journalists’ right to freedom of expression and citizens’ right to access information. In this regard, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation has been working on the detention of and imposition of administrative sanctions on journalists and bloggers covering unauthorised public events. The High Commissioner recommended to amend the legislation by defining the legal status of bloggers. It also recommended that law enforcement agencies refrain from detaining journalists and bloggers present at the venue of an unauthorised public event in order to cover it.

People’s Advocate of Moldova

In 2021, the People’s Advocate of Moldova elaborated a concept regarding the necessity and importance to develop a draft law on human rights defenders. After that, the NHRI involved civil society and public authorities in discussion on the law, receiving mostly positive feedback. In parallel, the campaigning for children human rights defenders expanded and the NHRI proposed to include a chapter on children human rights defenders in the law, while mentioning the Ombudsman for Children as one of the protection mechanisms.

People’s Advocate of Moldova

As the authority responsible for ensuring whistleblower protection in Moldova, the People’s Advocate of Moldova created a form for submitting request and alerts on their website. Through this, whistleblowers can liaise with the NHRI on reviewing their case.

People’s Advocate of Moldova

The People’s Advocate of Moldova and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Moldova launched an online course on whistleblowers’ protection in Russian and Romanian. The platform is aimed at employees from both the public and private sector. Users learn about how to disclose illegal practices; the particularities of whistleblowing in the private and public sectors; what illegalities may be disclosed; and the protection guarantees for those speaking out about corruption and irregularities in the institutions they work in.

Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia

A human rights activist from an area outside of state control faced physical danger and criminal charges while being imprisoned due to her human rights work. The Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia challenged her detention and harassment as illegal, calling for a fair investigation and issuing several public statements calling on authorities to ensure her safety. The NHRI also raised international and regional attention of the case and nominated the HRD for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize and the UN Human Rights Prize.

Norwegian National Human Rights Institution

In 2019, the Norwegian National Human Rights Institution and the Norwegian NGO Forum on Human Rights conducted a survey on human rights defenders, with questions based on the provisions of the UN declaration on human rights defenders.

People’s Advocate of Moldova

The People’s Advocate of the Republic of Moldova closely monitors threats to the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press, while publishing public statements to support human rights defenders and prevent polarisation within society. In one case, a politician verbally threatened media actors and civil society representatives criticising his political activities and position. In response, the NHRI issued a statement condemning his discourse. This was supported by OHCHR and major human rights organisations in the country. The NHRI also reacted promptly in 2018 when a mayor expressed threatening statements to journalists and in 2020 when government officials attacked the press. It issued statements calling on the national authorities and the General Prosecutor’s Office to investigate. 

Danish Institute for Human Rights

The Human Rights Annual Award is granted by the Danish Institute for Human Rights’ Council to an exceptional person or organisation that has promoted and protected human rights in Denmark, Greenland, or the Faroe Islands. Candidates are nominated through a public consultation and by the media, with the NHRI acting as the secretariat for the Council jury.

Romanian Institute for Human Rights

Following its participation in the NHRI Academy 2021, the Romanian Institute for Human Rights designed a training course for staff working with the country’s Senate and Chamber of Deputies. The training course aimed to raise awareness on issues relating to human rights defenders and NHRIs. Its objectives were to increase the effectiveness of the implementation and promotion of human rights at the national level; educate on the characteristics, mandate and modus operandi of key human rights institutions at the national level; develop an appropriate and adequate national regulatory framework for human rights defenders; and strengthen the national regulatory framework for NHRIs.

Ombudsperson Institution of Kosovo*

On October 2021, the Ombudsperson Institution of Kosovo*, together with UN Women office in Kosovo*, launched the Informal Advocacy Task Force on Gender-Sensitive Standards for Occupational Safety, Health and Decent Work.

This task force aims to foster cooperation between stakeholders, the Ombudsperson Institution, the Women’s Caucus, UN entities, trade unions, private companies, gender equality activists and CSOs to promote gender-sensitive standards for Occupational Safety, Health and Decent Work.

The Task Force consists of the Ombudsperson (chair), while the co-chair will be the representative of the Women’s Caucus, several CSOs, and the Labor Inspectorate, Kosovo Chamber of Commerce, and the Union of Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo.

This task force shall promote occupational safety and health for all and will meet every three months. It will also establish a platform for the regular exchange of information, awareness raising, and advocacy for functional formal mechanisms and social dialogue at the national level.

Greek National Commission for Human Rights

The Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR) maintains a very close relation with NGOs and CSOs, while monitoring very closely the situation regarding civil society space and the protection of human rights defenders. Not only prominent NGOs and CSOs form part of the GNCHR Plenary, but the GNCHR also maintains within its premises the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN), which was established in 2011 by the GNCHR and the Greek Office of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.


Peer support among NHRIs can help in addressing challenges faced in a context of shrinking democratic space. ENNHRI, together with regional partners, organises trainings and capacity-building activities for NHRI staff, including topics on HRDs, NHRIs facing threats and communicating human rights. For example, the NHRI Academy 2021, jointly organised by ENNHRI with OSCE/ODIHR, focused on ‘Protecting Human Rights Defenders and co-creating inclusive civil society space’. Moreover, ENNHRI’s 2018 Annual Conference brought together over 100 key human rights stakeholders from across wider Europe to discuss how European NHRIs can better support democratic space and HRDs in the region.

Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia

The Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia has completed the technical development of a unique platform for registering and tracking harassment and attacks experienced by journalists and others working in the media. Once operational and running, the platform will, help ensure faster and more efficient responses from the competent authorities in the reported cases of violations of media freedom and freedom of expression. It will also provide a broader and more comprehensive overview of the challenges faced by journalists and contribute to enhanced public confidence in state institutions. In 2021, the platform was presented to the Government Working Group for the Safety and Protection of Journalists established in 2020.

Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia

The Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia initiated changes to the Law on Public Order and Peace. These changes were presented in September 2021 at a meeting of the Working Group of the Government of the Republic of Serbia for Security and Protection of Journalists. The proposed amendments include misdemeanor sanctions for violence, threats and insults against individuals and journalists on the internet and social networks. When presenting its Annual Report to the Parliament in 2020, the NHRI also underlined the importance of regulation in the area which would stop and punish violence committed and threats and insults made on social networks.

French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights

The French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights has addressed issues related to human rights defenders and civil society in many of its opinions and declarations. In its September 2021 statement on the situation facing Afghan people, the NHRI stressed that human rights defenders, as well as all Afghan people, at risk of persecution by the Taliban and who wish to seek asylum in France must be able to benefit from protection.