2020 has been a year marked by disruption, change, and, for the Norwegian Human Rights Fund, new opportunities and growth. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the vulnerability of millions of people that are invisible in social protection programs and suffer from inadequate access to healthcare, and repressive state responses have exacerbated existing issues of inequality, discrimination and marginalisation. It has been a year that has highlighted the crucial role that strong and diverse rights-based movements and organisations play: not only in holding authorities accountable for their service provision, but also in stepping in and providing communities with vital information, supplies and protection of their rights.
The struggle for human rights fulfillment and democracy across the world and in the countries where the NHRF works in continues. In 2020, we saw that violence and assassinations in Colombia rose significantly. Demonstrations erupted across the world, including in countries we provide support. In Thailand, protests calling for democratic reform were met with violence and harassment, and human rights defenders have been criminalised by authorities. Similar patterns of violence have taken place in India against farmers objecting to the deregulation of the Indian agricultural economy, or the attempts to strip away citizenship for religious minority communities. Last year we saw women taking to the streets in Mexico to highlight the country’s menacing and increasing levels of violence against women, and activists opposing the Indonesian “Omnibus law” dismantling environmental, labour and human rights protection to benefit businesses in a time of economic crisis. Evidence of a backlash against human rights globally can be seen in many countries where we provide support, and it threatens many hard-won victories in its attempt to further curtail legitimate human rights work and suppress those who defend them.