issue 30

Call for Papers for the
30th special edition

Sur - International Journal on Human Rights

Human rights defenders – their roots, faces and stories

Conectas Human Rights is seeking submissions in the form of narratives, essays, case studies, articles, institutional opinion pieces and art work for the 30th edition of Sur – International Journal on Human Rights on the issue of Human rights defenders – their roots, faces and stories. Preference will be given to authors of the Global South. The guest editor for this edition of Sur is Denise Dora.11. Denise Dora is a human rights activist and lawyer. She is the co-founder and president of the board of directors of Themis – Gênero Justiça e Direitos Humanos (Themis – Gender, Justice and Human Rights). She was responsible for the Ford Foundation’s Human Rights Programme in Brazil from 2000 to 2011. She is currently the executive director of Artigo 19, an international organization that defends the freedom of expression and opinion. Denise has published works on women’s rights and human rights and is currently a partner in a law firm specialized in the rights of civil society organizations, discrimination and socio-environmental law. The deadline for submissions is 10 February 2020.

The question “What motivates the actions of human rights defenders?” appears to have an obvious response: the imperative to survive and the indignation with the concrete impacts of systematic rights violations, as well as the desire and hope for a better world. Other responses, however, are not so obvious, such as an individual’s political consciousness and his or her desire to seek accountability for injustices and inequalities, even if that person has not suffered directly.

This initial question leads to others: what is the role of human rights defenders? Which individuals or groups of individuals can be considered human rights defenders? How do human rights defenders view their own work? Even though the definition of this “category” dates to Article 1 of the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998), its interpretation is not without controversy when it comes to applying it to people in specific situations.

International organisations have produced important reports on the situation of human rights defenders all over the world.22. “Defensores ¿El Juego Final?,” Programa Somos Defensores, June 2019, accessed December 4, 2019,; “Conflitos no Campo Brasil 2018,” Comissão Pastoral da Terra, 2019, accessed December 4, 2019,; “Fighting Back: A Global Protection Strategy for Earth Rights Defenders,” Earth Rights Defenders, 2018, accessed December 4, 2019, See, for example, “Enemies of the State?,” Global Witness, 2019, accessed November 10, 2019,; and “Front Line Defenders Global Analysis 2018,” FLD, 2019, accessed November 10, 2019, However, the focus of these publications is mainly the context of violence, the number of threats and the deaths of rights defenders in different countries and sectors of activity.

In the 30th edition of Sur Journal, we want to put the spotlight on the work of human rights defenders, but this time from a different angle. We want to celebrate our victories without, however, setting aside an agenda that must urgently be addressed to guarantee our work: the protection and well-being of those who defend human rights.

Therefore, we propose two thematic axes: One on the recognition of the stories of human rights defenders and the other, reflections on protection. We seek to draw attention to individual rights defenders and not only collectives, organisations or movements.

1. Celebrating stories of human rights defenders

Firstly, we want to respond to the questions: what fuels human rights activism? What motivates people to engage and continue to be involved in the defence of human rights? In addition to the conditions in which human rights defenders work to protect human and environmental rights around the world, we are interested in the stories behind the activists and the various ways that they understand and develop their work.

Therefore, we propose several questions to instigate or inspire the stories to be submitted to this edition of Sur Journal:

2. Reflecting on protection

Recent reports on the situation of rights defenders around the world present alarming data and bring to light conditions that are increasingly hostile to the defence of human rights. In the midst of such conditions, celebrating without discussing effective forms of protection could lead us to romanticise work in this field. Recognising this risk, we would also like to propose a space to debate the issue of protection from a critical point of view. Some questions to guide contributions on this are:

With these elements in mind, Sur is launching this call for submissions for its commemorative 30th edition. We want to receive submissions that include stories, journeys, tools and practices, focusing on both inspiration and strength but also on self-care and protection, that nurture the work of people who, for various reasons and in different contexts, defend human and environmental rights around the globe.

Sur Journal ( welcomes submissions (in Portuguese, English or Spanish) with 7,000-20,000 characters (with spaces) in the following formats: