U.S. Support for Human Rights Defenders

Protecting and supporting human rights defenders is a key priority of U.S. 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’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.

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to putting human rights and democratic principles at the center of our foreign policy. These Guidelines for U.S. Diplomatic Mission Support to Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders (PDF 248KB) outline and amplify the U.S.’s commitment to supporting this vital work as part of the President’s strategic vision and U.S. foreign policy. It is addressed primarily to both U.S. Department of State Human Rights Officers and members of civil society around the world, including human rights defenders.