Protective Fellowship Scheme for Human Rights Defenders at Risk

The Centre for Applied Human Rights has run the Protective Fellowship Scheme for Human Rights Defenders at Risk since 2008. So far the Centre has hosted 55 defenders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Burma, China, Colombia, DRC, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Russia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Somaliland, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.


What is the Scheme about?

One of the most important elements in bringing about improvements in human rights at a local level is the presence of active human rights defenders. They often find themselves working in hostile environments and without adequate training and support. Over time, the cumulative challenges of working in such an environment can have a negative impact on the individuals concerned and on their contribution to human rights work.

The Centre for Applied Human Rights has created an innovative response to this challenge through its Protective Fellowship Scheme. Human rights defenders are invited to come to York for periods ranging from three to six months. During this time they benefit both from time away from a difficult environment, and from educational resources designed to increase their effectiveness and their ability to influence policy and practice when they return home. We believe that this Scheme makes a unique contribution in enhancing the sustainability of social activism.

The benefits are three-fold:

  • Awardees have the opportunity to acquire new skills as well as take time to recuperate and reflect upon their work, enabling them to return to their activism re-energized
  • Enhancing the skills of human rights defenders is a sustainable way to bring about medium and long-term social change in their home countries
  • The Centre for Applied Human Rights benefits from the experience of the awardees, allowing it to create and share knowledge relating to best practice in human rights activism.


Nomination to the Scheme

The fellowships take place at the University of York and last for a period of three to six months. The Centre accepts up to ten human rights defenders as visiting fellows every year. The focus of the Scheme is on defenders who face risk in their working environment and have a need for human rights training that the Centre can provide.

Nominations to the fellowships are accepted from recognised civil society organisations working in human rights and/or specifically with human rights defenders. A call for nominations usually goes out in April and the fellows are expected to arrive in York in either mid-September or early January.

Please note: 2016 NOMINATIONS CLOSE ON 2 May 2016.

For queries regarding the Scheme, please contact Patricia Bartley, the Centre Co-ordinator (

Applications for fellowships can only be made via designated nominating organisations. The Centre cannot consider individual petitions.




I would say it is one of the most useful fellowships I could imagine. Not only the content that I've learnt, but also the connections and friendship that will last for a long time.

Sittipong, Thailand, Fellow Spring 2010

The Protective Fellowship Scheme for Human Rights Defenders at Risk is generously supported by the Sigrid Rausing Trust, Open Society Foundations, the Alan and Babette Sainsbury Charitable Fund, the J A Clark Charitable Trust, the Evan Cornish Foundation, York Annual Fund and the University of York.

Donating to the Protective Fellowship Scheme

The Centre for Applied Human Rights appreciates any donation, no matter how big or small. If you would like to donate online, please visit Yorkspace.

The great value of the York CAHR Fellowship is that it prioritises human rights defenders working in the most difficult circumstances and gives them both a break and an opportunity for really practical learning. York shapes the Fellowship to meet the needs of the human rights defenders rather than selecting the human rights defenders who best fit academic criteria.

Andrew Anderson, Deputy Director, Front Line Defenders