In 2019, the British Department of Foreign Affairs developed a report on UK support for human rights defenders. The document contains practices and possible actions for the support of human rights defenders by the United Kingdom, especially in the framework of foreign missions and international presence.
The guidelines list the United Kingdom’s reasons for supporting human rights defenders (HRDs or defenders), numerous challenges faced by human rights defenders and possible actions that can be taken internationally to support defenders at risk. The action points provided in these guidelines appear limited, however, as they are merely presented as optional strategies. The document concludes with a list of seven ‘pledges’ by the UK, none of which commit the UK to taking concrete steps for the support of human rights defenders.
Similar legislation has been implemented by other countries, mainly European ones that have developed a separate implementation of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders (other examples include Norway, the United Kingdom, Switzerland). Protection International does not consider this kind of legislation as a national policy for the protection of human rights defenders, first of all because guidelines are not binding. Secondly, because such guidelines are not applied to human rights defenders within the country that adopts it. Generally, these measures present an opportunity for contributing to an enabling environment for human rights defenders in countries where countries work on foreign missions, (e.g. through providing a focal point on the ground dedicated to provide assistance to human rights defenders). In this case, however, the document published by the UK mostly provides a description of practices by the UK and of challenges faced by HRDs, but does not constitute any tangible action plan for the support of human rights defenders.