This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. On 15 March 2023, the Human Rights Council hosted the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, where she presented her report “Success through perseverance and solidarity: 25 years of achievements by human rights defenders”.

“This year, I am listening particularly to the challenges faced by young defenders and children who are human rights defenders, from across the world. They will be the ones who carry the human rights struggle forward into the future” highlighted Ms Lawlor.

She praised, in particular, the work of child human rights defenders in Bangladesh preventing child marriage, despite the death threats they receive.

Fran, a 14 year old child human rights defender and a Child Advisor of Child Rights Connect spoke about building trust and cooperation between children and adults on a global level to ensure a better world for future generations.

“We always hear children are the future. But if we don’t plan this future together, what kind of future will we be able to have?” he asked the Council. He closed his statement stating “We are here. It is time. Act now. Act with us, not for us. Remember you were once children.”

Special Rapporteur Lawlor responded to his statement complimenting Fran:  “My heart goes out to all the young people, (…) I love the child rights defender there who spoke with such hope and optimism on his future”. Ms. Lawlor encouraged child human rights defenders.

In support of the work of Mary Lawlor on child human rights defenders, for the first time ever, 60 States came together to remind the world that children are human rights defenders and that the Declartion on Human Rights Defenders applies to them!

In the joint statement led by Luxembourg, States called for increased efforts to ensure the protection and effective empowerment of child human rights defenders”.

UNICEF and the Committee on the Rights of the Child reflected on the disproportionate barriers that children face when acting as defenders, calling on States to implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur.

In their individual statements, Costa Rica and Albania, joined the call to put a spotlight on child human rights defenders.

Albania “look(s) forward to exploring the role of children who work peacefully for the rights of others and their right to be defenders”.

Terres des Hommes delivered a joint statement on behalf of Child Rights Connect and members to join their voice in support of child human rights defenders.

“As we celebrate this important Declaration, we look forwards to collaborating with your mandate to “bring the voices of child human rights defenders to the fore” – as you state in your report.”.

In June 2023, the Special Rapporteur is organising a consultation with child and young human rights defenders to hear directly from them. At Child Rights Connect, we look forward to supporting these efforts and look at how to advance the rights of child human rights defenders.

Watch the full interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur:  Part 1 here and Part 2 here.