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Defending the defenders of human rights - 10/12/2010

Cartoon showing an EU umbrella over a man sheltering another man © EU

Those working to promote the human rights of others, often putting their own lives at risk in the process, are being honoured by the EU on 10 December - Human Rights Day.

A declaration issued by High Representative Catherine Ashton offers support to ‘these courageous individuals' working ‘to put an end to human rights violations wherever they occur around the world'.

The individuals and groups that promote and protect universally-recognised human rights and freedoms are known as human rights defenders. They seek the promotion and protection of civil and political rights, as well as the promotion, protection and attainment of economic, social and cultural rights.

The UN is highlighting a few of those devoting their lives to doing just that. The individuals include people fighting for the protection of prisoners' rights; the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; the rights of indigenous peoples; and a monk using modern technology to document the suffering caused by land grabs.

Events around the EU and elsewhere will mark Human Rights Day. In Brussels a debate involving campaigners will follow a showing of the film ‘Children of War'.

In Tajikistan a series of seminars will take place, co-funded by the EU, while in Nigeria, EU representatives will visit the country's human rights commission. Colombian human rights organisations and defenders have been invited to the EU Delegation on the 10 December, and a celebration of human rights in Israel is co-funded by the EU Delegation there.

With a budget of €1.1 billion for the period 2007-2013, the ‘European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights' is used to support non-governmental organisations campaigning for the protection and promotion of human rights. Some €40 million is set aside specifically for supporting human rights defenders. In 2010 alone, more than 150 individuals at high risk have received such support.

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