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2020 Annual Report | Building the resilience of human rights defenders at risk worldwide

In 2020, has delivered on the political commitments of the European Union in a critical way, providing practical and comprehensive assistance to nearly 6,500 of the most at-risk human rights defenders worldwide.

Last year, in every region, human rights defenders have faced increased intimidation and attacks, while civic space has continued to erode in many parts of the world. Risks have worsened for defenders as the COVID-19 broke into the daily lives of communities and determined the political agenda at the national and international levels. In this context, throughout 2020, has offered life-saving support to hundreds of defenders and enabled thousands of them to continue their human rights work with a higher level of security. has provided timely emergency responses to human rights defenders (HRDs), their families, and their communities, often with a holistic or multi-pronged approach, and has  shown great efficiency and flexibility in continuing to deliver results within the extraordinary context created by the COVID-19 pandemic and in responding to the aggravated risks defenders have faced. Thanks to our collective work, ProtectDefenders. eu has reportedly improved the support landscape available to HRDs and organisations, increased the visibility of the work that HRDs do and has further expanded connections between grass-roots human rights defenders and solidarity mechanisms.

During these challenging months, has adopted and embraced a gender strategy that permeates all programs, implementing partners, and actions, reinforcing a protection mechanism that work for women human rights defenders. Furthermore, has continued to reach out to those who are most-at-risk as the numbers of particularly threatened, or especially vulnerable human rights defenders accessing support from the EU HRD mechanism has consistently increased.

Flexible support for HRDs operating in the most difficult contexts has ensured access to protection grants to respond to security threats. Requests for material support from defenders and communities have dramatically increased, and the grant-making programmes have responded by exponentially reinforcing their mobilisation of resources, demonstrating a remarkable reactivity and flexibility to deal with emergencies – including those derived from the risks and dangers related to the impact of COVID-19 on the work to defend human rights and protect the most vulnerable defenders. Last year, has doubled its emergency material support and protection for individuals at risk, supporting more than 1,300 people. Financial support to at-risk organizations and communities provided a lifeline to NGOs and groups facing a shrinking space, promoting the creation of new initiatives or enabling them to expand their work. Furthermore, despite the notorious limitations on global mobility, the Temporary Relocation program has remained fully operational and enabled comprehensive relocation programs for human rights defenders and their families.

The tailored training programs for defenders and communities have promoted a holistic approach to capacity building and proactive strategies for long-term and sustainable social change informed by the communities and individuals most affected by inequality and injustice. Monitoring and accompaniment programs, including field missions, have been implemented to conduct urgent advocacy, to document human rights violations faced by the defenders or to monitor trials, and to provide physical accompaniment during sensitive periods. Moreover, has continued to mobilize relevant authorities, build public awareness and enhance visibility about the situation of Human Rights Defenders at every level through advocacy work addressing the root causes of HRDs’ vulnerability.

The achievements and results reported as well as the synergies, spill-overs and coalition-building achieved so far, have built upon the EU HRD mechanism for it to remain a global reference for the protection of human rights defenders, as commended by the Board of

The 2020 Annual Report is introduced by Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Eamon Gilmore, the EU Special Representative for human rights, and Lolita Chávez, land and environment WHRD from Guatemala.

Click to read and download the 2020 Annual Report

For more information:

Javier Roura Blanco
Senior Coordinator Communication and Reporting