UK Government Support for HRDs: Our latest campaign

PBI UK are proud to work in partnership with leading human rights organisations to collectively push for change. On 10 February 2021, jointly with Amnesty International and other peers, we launched a new report on the situation of at-risk human rights defenders around the world, and how the UK government can help. We call for the UK government to develop a new cross-departmental, gender-responsive human rights defenders strategy that prioritises support and protection for defenders.

Read ‘On the Human Rights Frontline

"With foreign office budgets cut to the bone, now more than ever the UK government needs to see human rights defenders as key workers fighting on the frontlines for free and open societies. The government should put a strategy to protect and partner with HRDs front and centre of its foreign policy, not just to honour the UK's long tradition of human rights, but to help support its efforts to promote the rule of law and freedom of the press. Working hand in hand is a win-win situation that we can no longer ignore” – PBI UK Director Susi Bascon

We are calling on the UK government to prioritise work to support and protect human rights defenders at this time by developing a cross-governmental, gender-responsive and adequately-funded strategy. We are asking the government to recognise defenders as partners in the protection of human rights and work with them strategically to identify supportive and protective interventions.

A strategic approach to defending the defenders would improve the impact and value for money of foreign policy and development initiatives, particularly at this time when the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s budgets have been cut.

Support human rights defenders by donating to PBI UK today

On the Human Rights Frontline was published by Amnesty International with the York Centre for Applied Human Rights, working with PBI UK, the Law Society of England & Wales, the Fund for Global Human Rights, Gender Action for Peace and Security, Together We Build It, Just Associates, Civicus, Frontline Defenders, Forum Asia, Kaleidoscope International Trust, and Bond.

The Right to Defend

This is part of our long-term campaign to raise the profile of human rights defenders working in some of the most dangerous environments in the world. PBI UK are working closely with the filmmaker and photographer Manu Valcarce on ‘Right to Defend’, a multi-media, multi-platform communications and awareness campaign, celebrating those making universal human rights a reality through non-violent methods. Whether they are fighting for social equality, access to justice and a fair trial, or land, environmental and indigenous rights, the risks these individuals take are many. We believe their stories set an example of solidarity and humanity that needs to be heard. We want to shine a light on the stories of extraordinary human rights defenders taking a stand against injustice: community leaders fighting to protect collective land rights against mining companies; women struggling for gender equality; human rights lawyers risking their own safety to defend the rights of activists.

PBI UK are working on a unique 60-minute documentary film, online platform, photographic exhibition, and social media campaign presenting the work of around 130 at-risk grassroots human rights defenders in Latin America, Africa and Asia on the frontline of the global fight for universal human rights.

We formally launched the project on the 10th of December 2019: Human Rights Day.  'The Defenders' is a short film exploring the experience of being a human rights defender in countries where the rule of law is fragile. You can watch it here:

So far, approximately 130 stories of human rights defenders have been recorded across four countries (Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Kenya and Nepal) alongside photographic material.


Online platform

We are pleased to report that we exceeded our target of documenting 60 Latin American human rights defenders – interviewing over 100 defenders from Colombia, Mexico, Honduras Nepal and Kenya (with future inclusion of Indonesian defenders in the future, pending funding). THE DEFENDERS online platform launched on 17 June, a centralised source of interviews, photographs, case studies and content relating to grassroots human rights defenders in PBI’s network. We are pleased to have variety of voice and experience in the portraits and interviews that form the backbone of our artistic and campaigning output and campaign. We have profiled a diverse group of defenders working on themes including supporting communities, solidarity with the stigmatised, and defending the earth. The materials are now being used on our social media (resulting in a marked increase in interactions), in fundraising (including our raffle of a Picasso linocut), our webinars, and in our communications. In cataloguing the interviews, photography and case studies for this platform, PBI UK has produced an invaluable source of testimonies for the human rights movement.

Documentary film

We have produced four short thematic documentaries, with a view to produce a feature length film next year.

  • Media Freedom in Honduras: human rights defender and acclaimed journalist Dina Meza discusses media freedom and the work of independent journalists in Honduras. We were pleased to screen this film at ‘Celebrating the World Press Freedom Day with Journalists in Honduras’, a joint British Embassy - PBI Honduras event in Tegucigalpa to commemorate World Press Freedom Day 2019. This film has helped to cement Peace Brigades International as a global expert in the protections of those defending media freedoms, leading our Director to attend the UK and Canadian government’s Defend Media Freedom Conference in London, also attended by 100 delegates from governments around the world. This film was used in the main plenary session led by Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt and Amal Clooney and released on the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Twitter, where it has been viewed 9,200 times.
  • The Defenders: spotlights those who put their lives on the line for the causes they believe in. After previewing at the 2019 Sir Henry Brooke Awards for Human Rights Defenders, The Defenders film and photo essay were formally released to celebrate Human Rights Day. They provide an excellent overview of the work of human rights defenders in Latin America, the dangers they face, why they continue to fight, and how PBI UK and international solidarity helps. The film functions as an incredible teaching and awareness-raising tool, and features on the front page of our website.
  • La Búsqueda – The Search: more than 40,000 people are missing in Mexico. We give voice to the mothers of the disappeared in Ayotzinapa, and the activists and lawyers who support the families and victims. There is an urgent need to demonstrate political will at all levels of the Mexican State to search for disappeared people, identify remains and return them respectfully to their families. This film is a powerful tool for advocacy, bringing attention to the issue of forced disappearance in Mexico and featuring Maricela Vazquez and Carla Palacios, winners of the 2019 Sir Henry Brooke Award for Human Rights Defenders.
  • SOMOS or We Are Not What They Say We Are: Honduras is one of the world’s most dangerous countries to be an LGBT+ human rights defender. This film tells the story of Arcoiris, an organisation that has faced mounting attacks, public abuse and relentless stigmatisation. We are pleased to report that this film has been selected for FilmPride 2020, Brighton and Hove’s LGBT+ film festival, with further selections expected later in the year.

Photography exhibition and book

The pandemic has put our planned exhibitions (at venues including the Law Society and four corners gallery) and photobook production on hold. In the interim, we have produced a series of online photo collections and essays which can be found on THE DEFENDERS platform. The photographic material has also been shared extensively across our website and social media

To bring the project to life in the absence of an exhibition, we also launched an associated social media campaign which shared photographic materials, and a webinar series. PBI UK took the opportunity to increase connection at this somewhat disconnected time, presenting a series of six webinars that show the importance of nurturing resilience, hope and solidarity - qualities which human rights defenders have demonstrated for decades. Together with defenders and experts, we explored the impact of COVID-19 on defenders and the wellbeing of the marginalised communities they support, as government measures encroach on basic rights and civil liberties. We also held a performance of ‘Stories of Resilience, Hope and Solidarity’ during which stars of stage and screen Juliet Stevenson and Christopher Colquhoun lent their voices to the inspiring testimonies of resistance collected through the project. We are pleased to report that these webinars have been a great success, viewed over 4,000 times to date.


If you share our vision of a world where individuals and communities can defend their fundamental rights without fear of reprisals and violence then please consider donating to our campaign

Please make out cheques to ‘Peace Brigades International UK Section’ and send to:

Peace Brigades International UK
465a Hornsey Road
N19 4DR