Official launch of the Barcelona Guidelines at EUTRP 2019
On 22 October 2019, the Barcelona Guidelines (‘The Barcelona Guidelines on Wellbeing and Temporary International Relocation of Human Rights Defenders’) were officially launched in Barcelona, Spain. The launch was during the European Union Temporary Relocation Platform, with this year’s focus on the ‘Well-being and psychosocial support of human rights defenders enrolled in relocation programmes’. The meeting was organised by ProtectDefenders.eu, Agència Catalana de Cooperació al Desenvolupament and Comissió Catalana d’Ajuda al Refugiat.
What are the Barcelona Guidelines?
The Barcelona Guidelines are a set of parameters made in collaboration with several organisations and individuals involved in the protection and support of human rights defenders, led by Justice and Peace Netherlands, the University of York, ICORN, the Martin Roth Initiative, and The New School. Their purpose is to provide guidance to coordinators of relocation initiatives and wellbeing service providers on how to support the wellbeing of defenders at risk and in relocation.
They propose a basic agreement of what support should be considered by Temporary International Relocation Initiatives (TIRIs) and wellbeing practitioners when hosting and supporting human rights defenders based on collaborative research and their shared reflections.
How the project started
The guidelines came to life at the Barcelona retreat in June 2019 when 40 researchers, health experts, and coordinators of TIRIs came together for a three-day workshop to identify best practices, share findings and experience, and develop tools for the use of civil society and wellbeing practitioners worldwide. This retreat took place after a one-year research project by Justice and Peace Netherlands, the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York, International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), the Martin Roth Initiative (MRI), The New School, and Sasha Koualeva, an independent expert on human rights and civil society.
Who are the guidelines for?
The wellbeing of human rights defenders is a critical – but still often neglected – issue in the human rights movement. Unfortunately, wellbeing remains a difficult topic to discuss amongst human rights defenders for many reasons.
“Deeply committed to their causes, human rights defenders often persevere despite challenges, risks, and personal suffering. Wellbeing – especially of themselves – is often deprioritised”
Cultures of human rights practice tend to value deep commitment and sacrifice, prompting feelings of guilt in relation to self-care. In many societies, there is a stigma around mental health, with human rights defenders already concerned with being cast in a negative light for their activism. As a result, wellbeing of human rights defenders is often overlooked, and can result in the detriment of their work or burnouts.
“Wellbeing support providers must be sensitive not only to the intersectional identities of defenders, but also to their own intersectional identities, and how their background, outlook and professional training impact on the support they provide to defenders.”
The guidelines were made to provide better support to human rights defenders at risk, highlighting that the wellbeing of defenders needs specific attention, from the very way relocation initiatives are designed, to the activities planned, expectations of defenders, and the resources and funding allocated to the programmes. They will assist wellbeing practitioners and coordinators of temporary relocation initiatives, but also funders and other protection actors.