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Shelter City

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At Justice and Peace, we believe that the most effective way to promote universal human rights globally is through the support and protection of local and grassroots human rights defenders. Through the Shelter City initiative, and together with 14 Dutch and international cities, we offer human rights defenders at risk a three-month temporary stay in one of the Shelter Cities, so that they can continue their work safely and effectively in the long term.

Visit the Shelter City website

Who are human rights defenders?

A human rights defender (HRD) is a person who, individually or with others, acts to promote or protect human rights non-violently. Whether they are journalists, lawyers, LGBTI activists, women’s rights activists, environmental defenders, or artists – they stand up for the rights and freedoms of people in their communities.

In some countries, they are considered foreign agents, dissidents, or threats to the state. Because of their vital work defending human rights, they are often subject to mass surveillance, harassment, violence and at times even death threats.

Learn more about the work of the human rights defenders that have taken part in the Shelter City programme.

"I have gained new energy and am now better prepared. The Shelter City programme has shown me that it is better to be silent for a while, than to have to keep silent forever."
Lottie, Nicaraguan indigenous rights defender
Shelter City guest from Palestine

Providing Support and Protection for Human Rights Defenders

If a human rights defender is at risk, they are eligible to apply for a three-month temporary stay with the Shelter City initiative. The programme provides human rights defenders the ability to a take a break for a short period, expand their network with organisations in the Netherlands and in Europe, strengthen their capacities and skills in areas such as digital, organisational and physical security through the Resilience Initiative, and access psychological well-being sessions.

Learn about the resilience initiative

Photograph by Daniella van Bergen

Who can apply for the Shelter City initiative?

The Shelter City programme is open for applications twice a year, in May and November.

Applicants should meet the following criteria:

  1. The HRD should implement a non-violent approach in his/her work;
  2. They are threatened or otherwise under pressure due to their work.;
  3. They should be able to be relocated for a period of maximum 3 months. Limited spots are available for people who are not able to stay for the full 3 months;
  4. They are willing and able to return to their country of origin after 3 months;
  5. They are willing to speak publicly about their experience or about human rights in their country to the extent that their security situation allows.
  6. They can speak basic English (limited spots are available for French or Spanish speaking HRDs);
  7. They are willing and able to come to the Netherlands without accompaniment.

The calls for applications will be published on this website. To keep up-to-date follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“As a Mayor, I am proud that Utrecht is one of the eleven Shelter Cities. Three years ago, my City’s parliament took the initiative to join the Shelter City network. The Shelter City guests are all extremely dedicated professionals. […] Their stories must be heard. Because freedom is so precious.”

– Jan van Zanen, Mayor of Utrecht, during the Shelter City Bike Challenge 2018

Human rights defenders are not alone in their struggle. The space for human rights defenders may be shrinking, but the movement to protect them is growing!

Want your city to become a Shelter City?

contact us