This publication studies the impact of public policies on the work and agency of human rights defenders (HRDs), starting from the perspective of HRDs themselves. It does so through a case study of the edicts in place in the DRC, in the provinces of North and South Kivu. 23 HRDs from North and South Kivu were interviewed over a period of four months, providing an in-depth overview of the challenges faced during their human rights work and the impact of the edicts on their activities.
This publication analyses the awareness of HRDs and authorities of these edicts, but also their concrete use and access to these documents. It also examines the extent to which different groups can effectively claim protection under the edicts.
The study found that difficulties in overcoming practical (accessibility, literacy, etc.) and cultural barriers causes the edicts of North and South Kivu to be useful only to an already relatively accepted and well-connected group of defenders. If these structural issues are not addressed, the edicts will continue to be used by a select group of HRDs, and will prove less useful for defenders who work from a more isolated position. The edicts may therefore lead to slight improvements in the situation of defenders who are relatively well accepted by authorities and other defenders, but will fail to effectively protect defenders who need it the most.