Human rights are increasingly under threat around the world. In this global context, reaffirming the European Union’s strong support for human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy, and their defenders around the world, Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen today signed 30 million euros, a substantial increase, for the new phase of the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism, in the presence of civil society organizations and human rights defenders, for the period 2022-2027 .
Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said: “The EU stands for human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy around the world. Human rights defenders are the EU’s main partners in making human rights a reality on the ground. Today, their lives are increasingly at risk due to the intensification of the repression of fundamental rights and freedoms. These courageous people who defend universal rights, even in the most dangerous and difficult contexts, can count on the support of the European Union. The EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism will continue to save lives, protect human rights defenders and support human rights work. I am proud to have signed a pledge today to significantly increase its funding – €30 million over the next four and a half years.
EU Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders
The EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism is a core EU program to support human rights defenders worldwide, a key priority of the €1.5 billion program euros for human rights and democracy in the world. The mechanism is managed by ProtectDefenders.eu, a consortium of 12 human rights NGOs. The additional funds will enable ProtectDefenders.eu to provide more at-risk human rights defenders with effective, strategic and flexible support in the short, medium and long term, including:
- Physical and digital protection, legal and medical support, monitoring of trials and prisons;
- Capacity development, advocacy, sensitization, training on risk prevention and safety, development of strategies (to counter restrictions, sanctions, defamation or laws that seek to criminalize their work), monitoring of the situation and the early warning;
- Temporary relocation programs in the EU and at regional or local level;
- More focus on women, youth, LGBTIQ and environmental rights defenders.
In 2021, the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism recorded an unprecedented increase in requests for urgent protective assistance from individuals and organizations facing security threats. ProtectDefenders.eu provided life-saving support and multifaceted assistance to almost 8,700 most-at-risk human rights defenders and human rights organizations – 23% more than in 2020 – in 103 countries, including Belarus, Myanmar and Afghanistan.
Since 2015, the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism has helped over 55,000 human rights defenders and their family members at risk in over 120 countries with funding from the EU. €35 million in its first two phases. While more than half of the beneficiaries are women and sexual minority human rights defenders, a growing number of environmental, land and indigenous peoples’ rights defenders are receiving support.
In its new phase, the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism will integrate the EU Emergency Fund for Human Rights Defenders at Risk. This EU emergency fund, which is managed by the Commission in close cooperation with the European External Action Service, provides emergency grants of up to €10,000 to human rights defenders and their families. Since 2014, the Emergency Fund has supported around 1,600 human rights defenders and their family members in around 100 countries.