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, on their contribution to human rights work and on the human rights movements they are a part of.
The Centre for Applied Human Rights has created an innovative response to this challenge through its Protective Fellowships. 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.
The Protective Fellowship Scheme for Human Rights Defenders at Risk is aimed at strengthening the capacity of human rights defenders at risk. It is open to all human rights defenders who work in difficult environments or who are directly at risk.
The scheme ordinarily offers a six-month fellowship at the University of York, where fellows engage in human rights research, develop their research capacity, and engage in learning and teaching. During this time, they will also conduct advocacy to further their work; expand their networks of contacts in the United Kingdom and Europe; and share their work with staff, students and the general public. The scheme runs annually from September until March.
The Protective Writing Fellowship is a new initiative aimed at strengthening the capacity of human rights defenders at risk who are in leadership positions within local human rights movements and organisations. It builds on and complements our Protective Fellowship Scheme for Human Rights Defenders at Risk, which we have run since 2008.
The Protective Writing Fellowship offers a three-month fellowship at the University of York to experienced human rights defenders (HRD) in key positions in their local human rights movement, providing these individuals with space for reflection and for development of strategic thinking. At CAHR, fellows engage in human rights research and develop their research and writing capacity.
During this time, they will have opportunities to engage with UK-based scholars on a human rights research topic of their interest; expand their networks of contacts in the United Kingdom; and share their experience with staff, students and the general public. The scheme runs annually from April until July.