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European Commission - Press release

EU launches innovative new mechanism to help human rights defenders

Brussels, 9 December 2015

On the eve of Human Rights Day, EU Commissioner, Neven Mimica, announces the first-of-its-kind EU comprehensive Human Rights Defenders mechanism.

On the eve of Human Rights Day (on December 10) EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, announced the first ever EU comprehensive Human Rights Defenders Mechanism. The initiative is set to become one of Europe's key tools to assist human rights defenders at high risk, including in remote areas, running until 2018.

Commissioner Mimica said: "Human rights are at the core of EU's values. Therefore, it is only logical that those who risk their lives to defend them must be able to count on us for support. Thanks to this first-of-its-kind mechanism, we will provide them with essential help, from urgent relocation to legal advice".

The mechanism counts on a budget of €15 million of EU funds until 2018. This funding is in addition to the continuous support to Human Rights Defenders already provided by the EU, including under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human rights (EIDHR). Since 2007, the EIDHR has allocated €200 million to Human Rights Defenders worldwide.  

Through the new mechanism, the EU will provide human rights supporters at risk with:

  • Short-term support, including physical protection, legal and medical support, trial and prison monitoring, and urgent advocacy and relocation, among other actions;
  • Medium-term support, including monitoring of their situation, early warning of risks, training on risk prevention and security (including digital security), and international, regional and national advocacy.
  • Long-term support including support to national networks, advocacy, lobbying and development of strategies to counter restrictions and sanctions imposed on human rights defenders by states.

The mechanism is managed by a consortium of 12 independent international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)[1] who have practical experience of working to support human rights defenders at risk. The mechanism has worldwide coverage, with a specific focus on remote areas. The concrete initiatives to be supported under the mechanism are decided upon by the NGO consortium, against a number of criteria including identity, situation and needs.

The number of Human Rights Defenders and local organisations benefiting from the mechanism is expected to progressively increase in response to developments which adversely affect the human rights situation worldwide.

The mechanism is one of the EU's major innovations and contributions to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed by the international community in New York in September.

As set up in the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019), the European Union and its Member States are fully committed to strengthening support for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and to addressing threats to the democratic space for civil society organisations and their supporters worldwide. The establishment and the implementation of the first EU HRDs Mechanism under the EIDHR is a major innovation to achieve these objectives.

The funding for the mechanism comes from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). Support to human rights and human rights defenders in situations where they are most at risk is the first objective of the EIDHR Regulation for 2014-2020. For the whole seven year period, 20-25% of the EIDHR total budget (i.e. €200 – 250 million), will be dedicated to supporting Human Rights Defenders in these situations.

The announcement comes during the month dedicated to Human Rights and Governance within the European Year for Development.      

For more information

Website of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR):

Website of the Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development:

Website of the European Year for Development:

[1] Front Line Defenders, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Network (ESCR-Net), International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA), Urgent Action Fund for Women Human Rights Defenders (UAF), Protection International, Peace Brigades International (PBI), Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF), Forum Asia and East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP).



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