Attacks against human rights defenders in the context of development activities are wide

Inclusive and sustainable development requires an environment where all people are free to express their views, to exercise their rights, and to fully participate in the decisions impacting their lives and their communities.

Yet today these human rights defenders are increasingly subjected to threats and attacks for their efforts, including harassment, physical violence, criminalization, arbitrary detention, and killing. What’s more, these threats and attacks are increasingly taking place in the context of activities undertaken in the name of development.

Through 25 case studies, Uncalculated Risks explores the nature of the threats and attacks against defenders in development, and examines the role of development finance institutions (DFIs) in mitigating or exacerbating these risks.


Threats and attacks against human rights defenders in the context of development activities are widespread.

Though they take many different forms, the threats and attacks often start with the labeling of communities, groups, and individuals as “anti-development.”

The imposition of development activities without the consent or meaningful consultation of local communities and marginalized groups is one of the key root causes of threats for defenders in development.

Development finance institutions have a duty to respect human rights and to ensure that their investments are not putting people at risk.

Yet too often, development interventions exacerbate risks for defenders due to lack of adequate attention to the rights and interests of local communities and marginalized populations, and to the contextual risks and power imbalances that may cause them to bear negative impacts or to be made vulnerable.

Early warning signs of potential threats to defenders are often missed or ignored.

DFIs have a wide range of resources and influence that can be utilized to change the risk equation for defenders under threat, but often fail to proactively develop this leverage or are reluctant to utilize the leverage they have.

DFIs often remain silent in the face of threats and attacks, or responses come too little, too late and defenders and communities are left without protection or remedy for harm.

Several DFIs are beginning to grapple with threats to defenders in development, but much more is needed.

Read the case studies https://rightsindevelopment.org/uncalculatedrisks/

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