UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

In 1998 the United Nations created their Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which lays out the rights everyone has when protecting and promoting human rights— and the responsibilities countries have towards them when they do.

The Declaration applies to human rights defenders of all ages, but it isn't written in child-friendly language— so we've created this version of it that's easier to understand.

Child-friendly text of the Declaration

1. Everyone can be a human rights defender. Any person, of any age, gender or background has the right to be a human rights defender— someone who promotes and stands up for your own rights or the rights of others.

2. Your country must protect your right to be a human rights defender and make sure the rights in this Declaration are upheld in real life.

3. Your country’s law should protect all human rights defenders, and human rights defenders must not do anything illegal.

4. This Declaration doesn’t take any rights away. Other international human rights laws are still important, like the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

5. Human rights defenders can join groups. As a human rights defender you can create or join groups, set up or join in charities, and speak to charities— but never use violence.

6. Human rights defenders can share their views. Human rights defenders must be free to learn about human rights and the law, share views, opinion and knowledge on human rights, and discuss good or bad human rights issues in your country.

7. Anyone can come up with new human rights ideas and ask for those ideas to be accepted.

(Including you, no matter what age you are.)

8. Everyone has the right to take part in and have a say on their government and the work that it does. This including drawing attention to human rights problems.

9. You can complain if your rights aren’t respected. All people, including human rights defenders, can complain if their rights are violated by any person or group— including people who work for your country. Complaints should be taken seriously and dealt with quickly.

10. Nobody should break anyone’s rights or feel like they have to do so.

11. Everyone should respect the rights of others when doing their job.

12. You have the right to take part in nonviolent activities to defend human rights, and you must be protected when you do. The government should make sure you don’t face violence, threats, punishment or discrimination.

13. You can ask for resources to help you promote and protect human rights.

14. The government should make sure everyone knows about human rights and have champions who stand up for your human rights - like the Children’s Commissioner, for example.

15. The government should make sure human rights are taught in schools, colleges and universities. It should make sure that people who work for government – like the army and police – have human rights training, and make sure that lawyers have training too.

16. Individuals and charities can raise questions about human rights and help more people understand their human rights.

17. Human rights defenders must act within international law and respect the rights and freedoms of others.

18. It’s important that you help take care of your community. People, groups and organisations have an important role to play in making sure the world is a safe and equal place where human rights are upheld.

19. Nobody can use this Declaration to destroy human rights.

20. Your country can’t use this Declaration to go against the Charter of the United Nations.