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August 10, 2023

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to putting human rights and democratic principles at the center of our foreign policy.

Because human rights defenders seek to hold their governments accountable to protect universally recognized human rights, defenders are often harassed, detained, interrogated, imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for doing their work. The Department of State’s objective is to enable human rights defenders to promote and defend human rights without hindrance or undue restriction and free from fear of retribution against them or their families. The work of these brave individuals and groups is an integral part of a vibrant civil society, and our investment in and support of them is likewise an investment in and support of the rule of law and democracy. Every day, around the world, many in civil society turn to us for assistance in emergency situations and to help them achieve longer-term goals that will make their countries more just and democratic.

A Human Rights Defender Is…

Following the principle set forth in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders  that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels,” the Department defines human rights defenders as individuals, working alone or in groups, who non-violently advocate for the promotion and protection of universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Defenders can be of any ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious denomination, or age. They can come from any part of the world, and from any social class or background, and also can be a person with a disability. How individual defenders promote and protect human rights also varies across country, context, and profession and can include, but is not limited to:

  • Collecting and disseminating information on human rights violations;
  • Supporting victims of human rights violations;
  • Rallying action to secure accountability and end impunity;
  • Supporting better governance and government policy;
  • Contributing to the implementation of human rights treaties; and
  • Educating and training others on human rights.

Click here to download the U.S. Guidelines for U.S. Diplomatic Mission Support to Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders

If you are a Human Rights Defender seeking assistance from U.S. Embassy Harare, contact us at HRDSupportZimbabwe@state.gov.