Shelter City Netherlands welcomes 15 human rights defenders

The Dutch Shelter City initiative, coordinated by Justice and Peace Netherlands in collaboration with 12 municipalities and local organisations, will welcome a new group of human rights defenders (HRDs) in March 2019. The 15 HRDs participating in the programme will travel to the Netherlands from Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Georgia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe for a stay of up to three months.

The participants focus on a wide spectrum of human rights issues including defending the rights of LGBTI communities, environmental protection, restoring the rights of child soldiers, women’s rights, press freedom and the right to information, the protection of minority rights, extrajudicial killings, access to justice, police violence, and illicit crops and drugs policy.

Three-month relocation and training 

Shelter City offers human rights defenders at risk a chance to catch their breath, escape a potentially threatening situation, re-energise, and gain the skills they need to continue their work safely and effectively.

“The Shelter City programme has shown me that it is better to be silent for a while, than have to keep silent forever.” – Nicaraguan human rights defender and former Shelter City participant

As a holistic programme, what the HRDs hope to gain from their stay in the Netherlands varies and is assessed on a case-by-case basis. A few goals expressed by our incoming HRDs include raising awareness about the gravity of human rights violations they experience in their native country, building a strong network of contacts with NGOs and individuals engaged in their field of work, taking the time to rest and clear their mind, gaining new skills in security, and learning new strategies for advocacy and fundraising.

Another important aspect of Shelter City is the security training the programme offers. During their stay, the human rights defenders will receive training in digital security, organisational security, and physical security by expert security trainers. The programme also focuses strongly on the importance of psychological and well-being support.

Shelter City looks forward to welcoming these human rights defenders very soon.