Shelter City is a nationwide initiative of Justice and Peace Netherlands to protect human rights defenders, in cooperation with a growing number of Dutch cities and local organizations.
Human rights defenders defend the rights of themselves and of others. Through their work they play an important role in the promotion of democratic values, political freedoms, and civil rights. This is a challenging and dangerous fight: they are often silenced, threatened, arrested, tortured and sometimes they disappear.
If human rights defenders are being threatened because of the work they do, they qualify for a stay of three months in one of the Dutch Shelter Cities: Amsterdam, The Hague, Groningen, Haarlem, Maastricht, Utrecht, Nijmegen, Middelburg, Zwolle, Tilburg, Rotterdam and Deventer.
During their stay in the Netherlands the human rights defenders continue their work in safety and they can take a breath. They grow their network of civil society organizations and political contacts in The Hague, Brussels, and elsewhere. They also follow trainings to improve their skills, for instance regarding safety or advocacy. And they can meet city residents.
Learn more about the training.
“By being in Holland, a Human Rights Defender has the unique opportunity to experience another society, another culture and another environment that is quite different from his or her own. (…) There cannot be a better place to see than Holland especially when it comes to human rights, tolerance, freedoms and democracy. (…) Therefore Shelter City has enabled me to rediscover my passion and further strengthen my resolve and conviction that the only guarantor of peace, stability and development is freedom.”
(Informal report by the first guest of Shelter City Groningen)
“My advice to the next Shelter City Utrecht candidate is: don’t rest, work HARD!!”
(Nkosilathi Emmanuel Moyo, Shelter City Utrecht candidate in 2015)
A Growing network
Justice and Peace established Shelter City in 2012 on the request of their network of international human rights defenders. After the first Shelter City in The Hague, Middelburg joined in 2014, followed by Nijmegen, Maastricht, Utrecht, and Amsterdam in 2015, Tilburg and Groningen in 2016 and Zwolle and Haarlem in 2017. In 2018 Deventer also joined the Shelter City network. Rotterdam followed in 2020. Tbilisi & Batumi (Georgia), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania), Cotonou (Benin) and San José (Costa Rica) have joined the network as International Shelter City Hubs. The expectation is that other cities (in or outside the Netherlands) will join in the future as well. The growing number of applications from Human Rights Defenders under threat shows that new Shelter Cities are strongly needed.
In every Shelter City the municipality, local organizations, universities, and Justice and Peace provide the shelter and take care of the program for the human rights defender. Together with the human rights defenders they organize meetings and workshops that contribute to the raising of awareness about human rights issues among the inhabitants of the Shelter Cities.
Shelter City is affiliated with the EU Human Rights Defenders Relocation Platform