Manon, training human rights defenders to also care for themselves

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Trainings on security and protection

The Shelter City programme provides human rights defenders (HRDs) with a chance to rest and re-energise but it is also an important time for participants to reflect and re-strategise. As civic space continues to close and attacks on those defending that space intensify, promoting and defending human rights needs to include risk management strategies.

Targeted surveillance, laws created or misused to stifle speech and dissent, physical reprisals and organised smear campaigns do not just harm HRDs but society as a whole. When human rights defenders get attacked, it sends a strong message to others standing up for human rights. Protecting the work of HRDs is therefore of vital importance for the healthy functioning of societies.

Despite increased global attention and efforts to support HRDs, challenges are persistent and in fact growing. Notwithstanding the importance of support from the global community, the first line of defense is at the local level: with the individuals, organisations and communities at risk.

During their stay, Justice and Peace offers Shelter City participants holistic security training sessions aimed at building resilience so that defenders can return to their respective contexts and continue their work safely and effectively.

How do we support human rights defenders?

Recognising that human rights defenders are experts of their own contexts, our trainings are tailored and facilitated with a focus on mutual learning and adaptability.

A holistic approach to security means that we recognise the symbiotic relationship between the different aspects of security. Physical, digital and legal/administrative threats are interdependent and mutually impact the psychosocial and mental well-being of those at risk. Our trainings therefore cover all these aspects, always reminding defenders of the interlinkages.

A typical training includes participatory and hands-on plenary sessions on digital security and simulations on physical security as well as sessions on basic security management tools such as risk assessments. These are complemented by group sessions on wellbeing and self-care, as well as practical body work and stress-management exercises. An important part of any protection strategy, we also offer sessions on effective human rights advocacy.

On our website we have compiled a repository of resources for human rights defenders covering all the different aspects of holistic security created by Justice and Peace and others working in the field of protection and security of HRDs.

Who can benefit from our trainings?

The trainings are open to:

  • Human rights defenders enrolled in the Shelter City initiative;
  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other groups working on human rights and social justice interested in receiving  training for their own staff or partners. These trainings can be provided on request and are service based. If you are interested please contact us at training[at]justiceandpeace.nl.

Since its creation in 1968, Justice and Peace has had a long trajectory of training expertise (conflict analysis, advocacy, community mapping, training of trainers, human rights, etc.). Protection and security trainings for human rights defenders started in 2014 with the The Hague Training Course (THTC), addressing the expressed need of many HRDs to deepen their knowledge, skills and international networks with the aim of continuing their work in a safer and more effective manner. Watch the documentary about the June 2015 edition of THTC. We have continued to develop our training curriculum ever since, while working with many human rights defenders in Shelter City.

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