Equality and Government Accountability

The situation of human rights defenders in Australia

Human rights defenders are people who stand up for human rights and hold power to account. Because of this work, they are often the targets of repression by state and corporate actors. This repression takes many forms, from restrictive laws and practices regarding freedom of expression and association to smear campaigns. When human rights defenders are restricted in what they can say and do, the flow on effects for our democracy are troubling.

In October 2016, we met with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, and presented a briefing paper on the interactions between defenders and business interests.

In it, we argued that Australia should implement a National Action Plan on business and human rights as a first step towards giving human rights defenders the protections they need to undertake their work.

In his end of mission statement, Mr Forst made reference to many of the issues raised in our briefing paper, and recommended that the Australian government develop a national action plan on business and human rights.