Bringing researchers and relocation initiatives together for the wellbeing of human rights defenders

Justice and Peace Netherlands, in collaboration with the University of York, organised a three-day meeting in Barcelona on the wellbeing of human rights defenders at risk. The meeting brings together 40 researchers, health experts, and coordinators of temporary international relocation initiatives (TIRIs) to identify best practices, share findings, and develop tools for the use of civil society and wellbeing practitioners worldwide.

Wellbeing and self-care is essential for those working in the field of human rights to protect themselves and sustain their important work. Unfortunately, many front line human rights defenders often ignore their personal wellbeing, thinking it is selfish, frivolous, or due to ‘superhero mentalities’ or cultural stigmas. To better support human rights defenders, Justice and Peace Netherlands started a one-year research project together with the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York, the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), Martin Roth Initiative (MRI), The New School, and Sasha Koualeva (consultant) in September 2018 in order to advance research on the wellbeing of human rights defenders at risk and in relocation.  

The meeting, co-organised with the University of York, is a continuation of this research project, and aims to maximise the research findings in order to translate them into resources for the broader human rights community and actors which provide support and protection to human rights defenders. During the three-day meeting, participants will provide feedback and contribute to the creation of two sets of guidelines that will assist health professionals, temporary relocation initiatives, and NGOs to navigate the wellbeing of human rights defenders at risk.

Our aim is that the human rights global community can better understand and support practices that strengthen the wellbeing of defenders, especially those who face risks, and are in relocation. 

Of these guidelines, one will be specifically geared towards mental health professionals working with human rights defenders, and the other for relocation initiatives to address and enhance the wellbeing of human rights defenders in relocation. These guidelines will be made available later this year.

Participants will also have the space to network with others, exchange perspectives, and be exposed to and develop better understandings of therapeutic approaches that defenders at risk have found useful for their wellbeing. 

Read more about research on the wellbeing of human rights defenders via CAHR’s HRD Hub here. The guidelines and research from the project will be published on this website later this year.  

This project is supported by a grant from the Foundation Open Society Institute in cooperation with the Human Rights Initiative of the Open Society Foundations.