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Observatory of “Human Rights Defenders” – UNITAS: a tool for civil society in Bolivia

Discover a UNITAS innovative initiative: the Observatory of “Human Rights Defenders”. This is a virtual space under the UNITAS website (www.redunitas.org), a platform of the Bolivian NGO and a member of the IFP which was created in February 2014 with the aim of systematising and disseminating information of interest to civil society organisations for the defence of human rights on a global, regional and local scale. 

What is exactly the “Human Rights Defenders” Observatory – UNITAS?
The Human Rights Defenders Observatory is a virtual space under the UNITAS website (www.redunitas.org) which was created in February 2014 with the aim of systematising and disseminating information of interest to civil society organisations for the defence of human rights on a global, regional and local scale.

In a second phase, it is hoped that the Defenders of Rights Observatory will be the result of collaboration between the 22 associated organisations of UNITAS and its international allies so it can provide up-to-date information and an analysis of the situation of the defenders of rights in the country and in the sphere of civil society in general.

The contents can be divided into the following sections:

(1) Cases and studies: to track cases where the rights of civil society have been violated, identified in media coverage and public documents for complaint and support. These include the Observatory’s own studies and others which are the result of inquiries of civil society, position papers and participation in spaces for dialogue and public debate.

(2) Legal framework: this brings to the fore national regulatory documents and international protective mechanisms for the defenders of rights and the civic space. It also ensures that National Evaluations, the Universal Periodic Review and reports on public policies are monitored.

(3) Receiving complaints: it collects specific data on the infringement of rights of the defenders of rights in a flexible format which makes it possible to draw up strategies for strategic lawsuits.

(4) News: where news on subjects of interest can be systematised via e-newsletters, news, communiqués and audiovisual media.

What are its objectives?
The Observatory’s work is based on the knowledge acquired over the 40 years the Network has been in existence; its objective is to ensure that the information generated is validated and spread widely, under the umbrella of the International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness. The Observatory, in studying and disseminating the situation of the three fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, seeks to create a tool for civil society that demands the State to fulfil its obligations to respect, protect and implement in a manner that does not limit itself to refraining from interfering in the enjoyment of rights but, rather, actively promotes the means necessary to protect those persons who decide to associate peacefully, assemble and express themselves.

What progress does it hope to achieve?
It is hoped that the Observatory will become a valuable resource for Bolivian civil society, providing high quality information that has been verified in Bolivian civic space whilst also being internationally comparable. To this end, from May onwards, the associated organisations of UNITAS located in various municipalities throughout the country, will send in quarterly reports summarising the situation of the defenders of rights and the quality of the civic space in its areas of action and so provide input for a national report to be compiled by the technical team at UNITAS and disseminated by the Observatory.

Similarly, it is our intention that the Observatory opens spaces for debate and helps to better promote the civic space and the right to defend human rights. The Observatory must provide a reliable service so that civil society can communicate, find out about and monitor issues of the civic space in general and the situation of the defenders of rights in particular.