Costa Rica becomes third international Shelter City for human rights defenders

Costa Rica is now the third international Shelter City hub, joining a network of 11 Dutch Shelter Cities and two international Shelter Cities in collaboration with local partners, municipalities and embassies. The official signing of Shelter City Costa Rica marks an important step towards the protection of human rights defenders in Central and South America. 

Photo: Dutch Ambassador to Costa Rica, Peter Derrek Hof, signing the agreement for Shelter City Costa Rica on 5 February 2018. 

The agreement to establish Shelter City Costa Rica took place on Monday, February 5th, 2018. Those attended included Dutch Ambassador to Costa Rica, Peter Derrek Hof, Vice President of the Republic of Costa Rica, Ana Helena Chacón, and Costa Rican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Manuel González Sanz.

The signing of Costa Rica marks an important step towards the protection of human rights defenders in the Central America. 2017 was a particularly deadly year for human rights defenders in the region, specifically for environmental and indigenous rights defenders as reported by Front Line Defenders and Global Witness.

Human rights defenders at risk from countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Colombia will have the opportunity to temporary relocate for a period of three months, and access essential tools and training to improve their security. Costa Rica also has a long standing commitment to the protection of human rights, making it an ideal location for an initiative such as Shelter City.

“Whenever I travel through the region, I meet human rights defenders. I know the value of their work. I know the risks they take. The violence, the threats, the stigmatisation, the imprisonments, the murders.

We need to support them. Therefore we established Shelter City Costa Rica. I am proud we are making this contribution.” – Peter Derrek Hof, Dutch Ambassador to Costa Rica

The programme for the protection of human rights defenders will be coordinated and implemented by local human rights organisation, Fundación Acceso, with Hivos and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands funding its early stages. Since 2016, Justice and Peace Netherlands has worked with local partners and the Dutch Embassy in San José to assist in the project planning of Shelter City Costa Rica.

In 2017, Tbilisi, Georgia and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania became the first two international Shelter City hubs to implement the temporary relocation programme for human rights defenders. The growing number of HRDs at risk means that more international Shelter Cities are needed to provide temporary relocation and protection.

Shelter City is an initiative of Justice and Peace Netherlands, made possible by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Shelter Cities and many many local partners.