International Retreat Held to Develop Ways to Support Human Rights Defenders with Wellbeing

Over forty mental health professionals, coordinators of temporary international relocation initiatives, researchers and other human rights advocates from around the world gathered in Barcelona in June to share approaches to supporting human rights defenders with their wellbeing. The event, organised by CAHR with support from Justice and Peace Netherlands, provided the opportunity for participants to network, learn about and experience a range of therapeutic interventions, and discuss and feedback on wellbeing support Guidelines being produced by CAHR.

The three-day event had a truly international feel, with all sessions delivered simultaneously in English and Spanish, and with attendees from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the MENA region. Participants had the chance to experience a range of different therapies used by mental health professionals supporting human rights defenders in different contexts.

A core objective of the Retreat was to discuss and feedback on Guidelines for coordinators of temporary international relocation initiatives and mental health professionals to support defenders with their wellbeing. The Guidelines are based on the findings from interviews with over 80 coordinators, mental health professionals, and human rights defenders on relocation initiatives. It is hoped they will be flexible enough to be used and adapted as needed across a range of cultural contexts, but robust enough to ensure that appropriate and effective support is provided to defenders. Once completed, the Guidelines will be made public and available in multiple languages. 

Call for Expressions of Interest

Taking the Long View: Civil Society Resistance and Resilience

We will be holding a workshop in November 2019 on civil society strategies to push back against shrinking space. The workshop will ‘take the long view’ by focusing on 1) empirical, evidence-based studies of civil society resistance and resilience, and 2) historical precedents, lessons and insights of relevance to current situations. More information for those who are interested in giving a presentation, in being on a panel, or in any other kind of input to the workshop can be found here.

How Universities can Strengthen Civic Space: Workshop Insights from Cape Town

Universities play a crucial role in fostering peaceful activism, which is especially important as civic space is shrinking across the globe and human rights defenders (HRDs) continue to face threats and repression. On 28 and 29 November, the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR)and the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRDN) organised a workshop to explore opportunities for enhanced collaboration between universities and civil society organisations (CSOs) to strengthen civic space and create an enabling environment for HRDs.

Gender, Intersectionality, and Security - new policy brief

Women human rights defenders experience risks that are shaped by their gender, other aspects of their identities, the types of human rights issues they act upon, and the socio-political contexts in which they operate. Some women defenders experience higher levels of societal and institutional discrimination than others; some also experience sexism and discrimination within human rights movements. This Policy Brief examines how gender and intersectionality affects women defenders’ risks, the issues they face, and their experiences of security and protection

Countering the Stigmatization of Human Rights Defenders - new policy brief

The ways in which human rights defenders are perceived affect their space for work and their security. Stigmatisation is a common method of deterring them, and occurs in different ways – from name-calling, shaming, insinuations, accusations, the spreading of false rumours and lies, to smear campaigns, judicial harassment and criminalization. The negative impacts of stigmatisation can be invisible, subtle, and long-lasting; they can result in more threats and attacks against defenders and the fragmentation of communities and movements. Countering the stigmatisation of human rights defenders is critical to their security and protection, as is the promotion of the legitimacy of their human rights practice.

New Working Paper Released

'Making the Territory: The Spatial Politics of Peasant Communities

Sylvain Lefebre's paper looks the spatial politics of peasant communities in Colombia, which he frames as key to accounting for the success of peasant communities in protecting their territory, claiming their rights and growing as a community. His paper looks in detail at how the strategies used by the peasant communities incorporate both protection and peace building into the daily lives of the communities, as well as the nuanced forms that their resistance takes.

New working paper published

The latest paper in the HRD Hub's working paper series has been published - Defenders Across Borders: Congolese HRDs in Uganda's Refugee Regime.  The paper is by Dr Katie McQuaid, an anthropologist currently working as a research fellow at the University of Leeds.  Her research focuses on gender and sexuality, violence, climate change, intergenerationality and human rights in urban Uganda.  

Transitional Justice Barometer

A recent collaboration between the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York, Impunity Watch and the Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center (KADEM), produced a policy brief which summarises the recommendations of a number of studies in Tunisia to offer a compact guide to stakeholders seeking to apply the lessons on transitional justice.

More information on the project and the policy brief can be found at

Knowledge Platform - Security & Rule of Law

Temporary International Relocation Initiatives

Martin Jones and Sanna Eriksson co-hosted a UN Human Rights Council side event on temporary relocation in Geneva on 1 March 2017.  The co-organisers were the Dutch, Georgian, Costa Rican and Swiss permanent missions to the UN, and the Dutch NGO Justice and Peace.  The panellists included the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs Michel Forst, Mr Kees van Bar the Dutch Human Rights Ambassador, Joe Moses (HRD from Papua New Guinea), Memory Bandera (DefendDefenders), and Alexia Falisse (Justice and Peace).

This was followed on 2 March CAHR with a workshop on temporary relocation to build upon our work with the UN special rapporteur on HRDs and CAHR’s extensive experience in running the Protective Fellowship Scheme for HRDs at risk.  The day was spent discussing issues affecting temporary relocation programmes, ranging from questions around access to relocation schemes to issues surrounding return after relocation. Participants in the workshop included relocation providers such as ICORN, Justice and Peace, Pan-African Human Rights Defender Network, Forum-Asia and Frontline Defenders.