Twenty years later, human rights defenders across the OSCE area continue to face numerous challenges despite the repeated reaffirmation by participating States of the right of individuals to know and act upon their rights and duties, as guaranteed for the first time by the Helsinki Final Act in 1975. Civil society organizations have consistently expressed their concerns to participating States and suggested that guidelines on their role in assisting participating States in the implementation of the Budapest 1994 commitment be developed.
In line with its mandate to assist participating States in the implementation of their human dimension commitments, the ODIHR has undertaken to develop the OSCE/ODIHR Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.
In recognition of the importance of the issue, the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship has identified the role of the civil society and human rights defenders as a priority topic. Protecting and promoting human rights and strengthening the rule of law are among Switzerland’s foreign policy objectives. These objectives can only be met when internationally recognized human rights standards and commitments are effectively implemented. Human rights defenders play an indispensable role in this process.
The Conference will see the launch of the OSCE/ODIHR Guidelines and provide a platform for discussion on how the participating States, together with OSCE, including ODIHR, can best provide support to human rights defenders in line with OSCE commitments to further promote human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law.