GANHRI Global Action Plan to support the protection and promotion of human rights defenders and civic space

National human rights institutions (NHRIs) around the world are able to access practical tools and support to strengthen their efforts in protecting and promoting human rights defenders and civic space, as part of a Global Action Plan released by GANHRI.

The Global Action Plan is available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

The Global Action Plan was developed through a consultative process, involving GANHRI members, regional NHRI networks, UN partners and human rights defenders. 

As part of these consultations GANHRI members identified environmental human rights defenders and indigenous peoples as groups particularly at risk of threats, violence and reprisals, followed closely by journalists and women human rights defenders. 

GANHRI members also noted that national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have had a significant impact on the global trend of the shrinking of civic space, with increased restrictions on rights and freedoms and a deterioration of the rule of law. In some countries, such restrictions – such as the right to peaceful assembly – appeared to be applied more strictly to human rights defenders than to other groups.  

“As part of the Marrakech Declaration, adopted in 2018, GANHRI members pledged to take concrete steps to promote and protect human rights defenders and civic space,” said GANHRI Chairperson Maryam Al Attiyah. 


“GANHRI’s Global Action Plan will strengthen the capacity of members to implement these commitments at a time when human rights defenders need even greater support.” 

The Global Action Plan sets out a range of practical initiatives to support NHRIs, including: 

  • Establishing National Protection Mechanisms for human rights defenders 
  • Establishing efficient and robust early warning mechanisms and human rights defender focal points within NHRIs 
  • Monitoring and reporting on the situation of civic space, both online and offline 
  • Interacting regularly with human rights defenders and civil society and helping develop and strengthen national, regional and global networks of defenders 
  • Engaging with international and regional human rights mechanisms in support of human rights defenders, and monitoring the follow-up and implementation of recommendations 
  • Encouraging ratification of international human rights treaties and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and providing advice on their implementation. 

Recognising the very serious challenges faced by women human rights defenders and those advocating for the human rights of LGBTQ people, the Global Action Plan will support NHRIs in their efforts to promote gender equality and develop strategies to combat all forms of discrimination. 

GANHRI will also develop tools and initiatives to assist NHRIs promote positive narratives about the work of human rights defenders to build fair and just communities. 

During the consultation process for the Global Action Plan, one third of GANHRI members across all regions reported cases of threats and acts of intimidation against their institutions, their members and staff. 

“Attacks on the work and independence of NHRIs have been increasing in recent years,” Chairperson Al Attiyah said. “Recognising that NHRIs are also human rights defenders, GANHRI will continue to support and protect NHRIs facing threats and reprisals for work conducted according to their mandate.” 

GANHRI will also bring NHRIs and their regional networks together at the global level so there is a strong, unified voice advocating for international and national standards on human rights defenders and civic space. 

The Global Action Plan to support the protection and promotion of human rights defenders and civic space was produced with the financial support of the European Union in the framework of the NHRI·EU capacity building project.