West African Human Rights Defender Conference

The Conference

Securing the Firewall and Connecting the Unconnected: Frontline Defenders Across West Africa

Renforcer le Pare-feu et Rapprocher les Déconnectés : Défenseurs de Base en Afrique de l’Ouest

This conference took place in March of 2021. Research motivated by discussions at the Conference is ongoing and will be available on this page.

La conférence a eu lieu en mars 2021. Les recherches motivés par la conférence continuent et seront disponible içi.

West African human rights defenders during a meeting


Human Rights Defenders, especially Frontline Grassroots Environmental, Land, and Human Rights Defenders in West Africa, face challenging and threatening situations that make the work they do very difficult. Given the enormous barriers and risks they face in their work, there is an urgent need to understand better who these Frontline Grassroots Defenders are, what strategies they use to keep themselves safe, and where the gaps are — to connect the unconnected and establish a support and response mechanism for frontline grassroots environmental, land, and human rights defenders across West Africa. A recent report co-authored by Alfred Lahai Brownell Sr., Tom & Andi Bernstein Visiting Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School; Green Advocates International, a human rights organization in Liberia; and several other human rights organizations in West Africa seeks to fill those needs. The report is a comprehensive baseline assessment that compiles the experiences, knowledge, lessons learned, skills, expertise, and practices of Frontline Grassroots Defenders across the West African region.

Les défenseurs des droits de l’homme, en particulier les défenseurs locaux en Afrique de l’Ouest, sont confrontés à des situations difficiles et menaçantes qui rendent leur travail très difficile. Compte tenu des énormes obstacles et risques auxquels ils sont confrontés dans leur travail, il est urgent de mieux comprendre qui ces défenseurs sont, quelles stratégies ils utilisent pour se protéger et les lacunes du système en place. Alfred Lahai Brownell Sr., Tom et Andi Bernstein Visiting Human Rights Fellow à Yale Law School; Green Advocates International, une organisation de défense des droits de l’homme au Libéria; et plusieurs autres organisations de défense des droits de l’homme en Afrique de l’Ouest ont rédigé un rapport pour répondre à ces besoins. Le communiqué est une évaluation exhaustive qui compile les expériences, les connaissances, les compétences, l’expertise et les pratiques des défenseurs des droits de l’homme dans toute la région de l'Afrique de l'Ouest.

Schedule & Conference Materials:

You can find the schedule for this conference here. You can also read the Executive Summary for the report here in English and French. The full report is available in English and French.


  • Advocates for Community Alternatives
  • Defend the Defender Coalition
  • ESCR-Net - International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
  • Global Witness 
  • Green Advocates International 
  • International Service for Human Rights
  • Mano River Union Civil Society Natural Resources Rights and Governance Platform
  • Open Society Foundation 
  • PHRGE/Northeastern University School of Law
  • Public Interest Lawyers Initiatives for West Africa
  • The Schell Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School
  • Tulane University School of Law
  • West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
  • West African Journalists Association

Schedule and Conference Materials

The full conference schedule will be posted soon.