As we mark our 60th anniversary as a human rights and relief from poverty charity, we report on the state of human rights in those countries in which we are currently particularly active
In the context of global human rights, 2020 and 2021 were pivotal years. There were, and continue to be, both encouraging signs and worrying developments.
On the positive side, around the world brave, ordinary people made a stand against authoritative regimes, the corporate world continues to gradually accept its potentially powerful role in advancing human rights, the Black Lives Matter movement demanded an end to systematic racism and police brutality and the demands to tackle climate change are being increasingly heard. From Egypt to Hong Kong to Belarus people took to the streets and social media in a mass outpouring of support for free speech and human rights.
On the negative side, we have seen the development of repressive regimes in Myanmar, Venezuela, Russia and Syria and elsewhere, and across the word we see governments cutting down free speech through social media and on the internet. Action in response has been taken by the International Criminal Court and other international bodies (Human Rights Watch, 2021) but, despite these interventions, the number of prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders has continued to climb in almost every region, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recession, and a global slide towards authoritarianism.
This report attempts to estimate the number of prisoners of conscience in 15 countries, all of which are regions of support by PoC in the last 10 years, and describes the context within which persecution of human rights defenders is being brought about. We set out the number of grants awarded by PoC to prisoners of conscience over the last 10 years, and a typical case study in each of these countries.
The need to support those who support human rights has never been more urgent but there is a vast disparity between the extent of human rights abuses in each country and PoC’s financial resources to meet the extent of the need.
Since 1962, we have supported tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience and their family members, awarding grants across over 70 countries. These courageous men and women have participated in protests, stood up against persecution, provided humanitarian aid and called for political, social and legal reforms in the face of corruption and censorship. The findings within this report are a testament to their courage and integrity.