2024 – A crucial year for human rights and those who defend them

January is almost over, and NHRF's Executive Director, Ingeborg Moa, has taken some time to reflect on what our plans and hopes are for 2024 here at the Norwegian Human Rights Fund and the values that will guide our work going forward.

To start with the hopes, even if hoping is not enough, we continue to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and for a just solution that respects human rights, where hostages can be released and the civilians in Gaza get their legitimate human rights fulfilled. Any civilian killed in Gaza today could have been alive if a ceasefire had been implemented yesterday. The humanitarian needs are now enormous. While donors pledge funds to humanitarian assistance, it is crucial to also provide and plan for increases in human rights funding to Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations. With threats from several donors to freeze or withdraw funding to Palestinian human rights organisations, it is going to be necessary that others step up and that funding to local human rights organisations is increased.

I am also afraid that our decades old normative framework for human rights is not going to survive unless we act NOW to protect human rights, stop the attacks, and hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable.

In other developments to watch this year, 2024 is a massive election year globally. Around half of the world’s population will be going to the polls. Our hope is for the trend of authoritarianism to turn and for rights-respecting governments to be elected. This requires active work to protect democracies, when all signs are pointing towards a continuation of the trend of authoritarian regimes that do not respect human rights and the rights of those who defend these rights.

We see that our work to fund human rights organisations and human rights defenders remains a matter of life and death. Human rights defenders continue to be threatened, imprisoned, injured and killed. The Global Analysis 2022 by Front Line Defenders found that 401 human rights defenders were killed in 26 countries in 2022, with 48% of those killed being defenders working on land, indigenous peoples’ and environmental rights. Additionally, human rights defenders were exposed to other threats such as arrest and detention, legal action, or physical attacks. The most frequent assaults on women human rights defenders were death threats.

In the face of all this, we vow to keep hope. Even more, as the children of the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi have said, quoting their mother: ‘victory is not easy but it is certain'.

The NHRF now supports more than 125 local human rights organisations around the world, from the shores of Banda Aceh in Indonesia to the forests of Caquetá in Colombia. From women organizing in Thailand and India to those providing legal services to human rights defenders in Israel and Palestine. From those fighting for worker’s rights in Pakistan and Sri Lanka to others organizing to protect indigenous territories and life in Mexico. We are certain that their work also in 2024 will be important, much needed and will eventually lead to victories for human rights.

NHRF grantee partner seminar in India, 2023

Considering these realities - which values will guide us in our work to support human rights defenders and their organisations?

So, in trying to stand up against the negative trends, we need nourishment in the form of values that guide us and motivation that drives us!

At the NHRF we have just concluded a long, but useful process of looking at which values should guide our work. We have had deep conversations about when we feel most proud of our work, how we want to be seen and experienced by our grantee partners, donors, and others we cooperate with, and which values should guide us when we are faced with challenging dilemmas.

The three values that will guide the work of the NHRF going forward are Courage, Flexibility and Solidarity.

To counter the attacks on universal human rights for all, we need to be courageous and work in flexible ways to meet needs and respect local solutions. Most importantly we need to make sure that we conduct our work not as an act of charity but as an act of solidarity.

We look forward to your support also during this coming year!