International Network of Human Rights | Europe
Réseau International des Droits Humains | Europe
Red Internacional de Derechos Humanos | Europa

Human rights defenders

What are human rights defenders and what do they do?

Human rights defenders are seen as agents of change in their communities, working collectively to promote, defend and protect the rights of individuals and communities.

They have very different roles, and their activities include gathering and disseminating information, advocacy, mobilising public opinion, actively supporting the material resources needed to put human rights into practice, contributing to democratic transformation and improving social, political and economic conditions.


In 2020, Latin America became the most dangerous region in the world for human rights defenders, with the situation deteriorating in several countries. Human rights violations and the decline of democracy have forced many defenders into exile. Human rights activists in the region faced a series of challenges, including laws criminalising their work, increasing intimidation, violations of their fundamental rights and forced displacement by state and non-state authorities in authoritarian and hybrid regimes.

This series of challenges has led not only to legislation criminalising their work, but also to intimidation, harassment, physical attacks and other violations of their rights, creating a hostile environment for their safety. In 2020, Latin America accounted for more than three-quarters of the murders of human rights defenders worldwide.

Internal migration in Latin America

The political crisis in Venezuela has displaced around 5.6 million migrants to Colombia, putting a strain on the country’s resources. At the same time, the Nicaraguan crisis has forced more than 100,000 Nicaraguans to flee their country, seeking refuge in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Panama.

The situations in Venezuela and Nicaragua have forced many defenders to flee to neighboring countries, where they continue their work despite the threats and challenges. But other countries, particularly in Central America, are suffering from the accumulation of political, social, and economic crises that are causing migratory flows throughout the Latin American region and contributing to an increase in human rights violations.

The priorities of RIDHE 

  1. Strengthen local, national, and international legislative frameworks to ensure the protection and security of human rights defenders in case of obstruction in their work.
  2. Provide training, capacity-building, and access to information to support their human rights protection work and denounce violations.
  3. Monitor and disseminate information about the situation of human rights defenders through advocacy at the European and international levels, as well as media engagement in cases of rights violations and criminalization of their work.
  4. Ensure and encourage collaboration among defenders in exile.
  5. Ensure the creation of livelihoods and provide psychosocial support.