Listen to this video excerpt by clicking here.

Mary Lawlor became the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders on May 1.

In her first message as a Special Rapporteur, Lawlor stated: “My priorities in the coming years will include a focus on the killings of HRDs, the issue of HRDs serving long prison sentences, online attacks and abuse aimed at HRDS, and the safety of marginalized defenders, including those working in remote rural areas, who are often most at physical risk.”

In a recent online interview with Peace Brigades International, Lawlor commented: “I think what PBI can bring to [this] mandate is its close connection with really marginalized human rights defenders.”

In her first message as Special Rapporteur, she also noted: “As you know, these are difficult days for HRDs, and we will be exploring how best to support their work during and after the current global health crisis.”

She added: “The pandemic has changed the world suddenly, and forever. We’ve seen authoritarian regimes taking advantage of the current crisis to grab more power and target those defending human rights. We could lose, in the coming few months, valuable ground it took us long decades to win in establishing human rights protections.”

In 2001, Lawlor founded the Dublin-based organization Front Line Defenders and was its executive director through to 2016.

In her interview with us, Lawlor noted: “When I started out with Front Line Defenders, PBI was one of the organisations I looked to for ideas. I really like the accompaniment model. …What I think I most admire about PBI is the fact that you’re very close to defenders in places that are very hostile to defenders.”

To read more, please see the PBI article: A conversation with Mary Lawlor, new UN Special Rapporteur for HRDs.

You can find her on Twitter at @MaryLawlorhrds