The European Union wishes to extend appreciation to the Special Rapporteur for his presence here today as well as for his ongoing work on this important mandate. We also wish to thank the Special Rapporteur for his recent report to the General Assembly which we view as an important contribution to better and wider understanding of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Protecting and promoting human rights is one of the main priorities of the European Union. The EU highly values the work of human rights defenders and would like to highlight their valuable contribution for the fulfilment of human rights around the world. The EU is deeply concerned that the defenders themselves have increasingly become targets of attacks and their rights are violated in many countries. The EU is committed to strengthening and deepening the implementation of the EU guidelines on Human Rights Defenders with a view to ensuring that those that fight for the dignity and rights of others have a safe space to do so.
In your report you note that there continues to be a worrying lack of accountability for the adverse human rights impacts of business activities. Human rights defenders who seek to expose human rights abuses and who actively contribute to sustainable and positive changes face a growing number of attacks from State actors and business-related actors. The criminalisation, and worse, of human rights defenders is a direct attack on human rights.
We welcome your encouragement to States, business enterprises and investors to fulfil their obligation to respect and protect human rights defenders and to uphold human rights and the rule of law. For the EU it is important that any measures designed, or actions undertaken, with the view of ensuring the safety and integrity of human rights defenders take into account the gender dimensions of threats and harassment and thus are responsive to the predicament of women human rights defenders . It is crucial to protect those who defend and promote fundamental rights and freedoms and we agree that this is a collective responsibility.
We also agree that both preventive and reactive measures need to be adopted and implemented by States and businesses to protect human rights defenders who document adverse impacts of business activities and take action. Can you give some examples of best practice and approaches, particularly by businesses, to address this issue? And could you further elaborate on what additional efforts might be required by states to address this particular issue?
Human Rights Defenders face intensifying challenges around the globe- what patterns do you discern in efforts to stifle their work and how might these be addressed?