Civil Rights Defenders’ Emergency Fund gives insight over 2021

March 18, 2022

Zinaida Muradova, Head of Rapid Response at Civil Rights Defenders

Defending human rights has become increasingly dangerous in many parts of the world. Many of those who do, face numerous risks and threats on a daily basis. When a threat towards a human rights defender escalates, Civil Rights Defenders’ Emergency Fund provides rapid assistance to strengthen the defender’s security as quickly as possible. 

On 7 March 2022 it provided a breakdown of its use. The fund can, for example, provide legal aid or temporarily relocate people who suffer persecution, as well as provide preemptive efforts such as security trainings and digital security solutions. In 2021, the fund supported a total of 1421 human rights defenders in 30 countries. 

Emergency support doubled in 2021

In 2021, Civil Rights Defender’ Emergency Fund has received and processed the largest number of applications since the inception of the fund in 2012. We have supported a total of 1.421 Human Rights Defenders (HRD:s) and/or members of their families at risk through a total of 171 grants in 30 countries. The number of applications and granted support have thus both doubled compared to 2020.  

The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for human rights defenders, which is a significant explaining factor behind this increase. The CRD Emergency Fund has seen and reacted to the global backsliding of democracy and a number of emerging conflicts in 2021. The aftermath of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the military coup in Burma, the spring protests in Colombia, the witch-hunt on civil society in Belarus, the civil war in Ethiopia and the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan are only a few of the conflicts that have deteriorated the security situation for human rights defenders in 2021. Many human rights defenders cannot continue their work for human rights and democracy without the support of the outside world.

Although the number of applications has doubled, so has the number of Emergency Fund applications granted. This increase is much thanks to the additional resources that Civil Rights Defenders has been able to put into processing fund applications. 

We are humbled to have been able to support so many human rights defenders in 2021. The need for emergency support is greater than ever, with the war in Ukraine the number of applicants is likely to keep increasing in the immediate future”, says Zinaida Muradova.

Emergency support to Burma and Asia has significantly increased in 2021, although the majority of human rights defenders who received emergency support continued to be from Africa. Additionally, the Emergency Fund continued to expand its global reach in five more regions – Eurasia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and MENA. In total, support was provided to human rights defenders in 30 countries during the course of 2021. 

Further advancing gender sensitivity 

The Emergency Fund continued to build on gender work started in 2019 to ensure a good gender balance and representation amongst the beneficiaries of support. We have been working to increase the accessibility of the mechanism for the most vulnerable groups. We see an improvement in gender balance, for example the percentage of non-conforming people supported doubled compared to 2020.

An increasing demand for legal aid and psychological support  

Despite the Covid 19 pandemic and continued strict restrictions on travel around the world, temporary relocations, where human rights defenders can reside safely for a short period, remained by far the most requested type of support in 2021. The majority of relocations were related to the major crises in countries mentioned above. Requests for preventive security measures to improve home, office or digital security, such as installing security cameras or digital security software, remained to be in high demand as well. Many HRD:s needed so called combined interventions, meaning a combination of several of the above mentioned support types. 

In 2021 The Emergency Fund has seen a noteworthy increase in requests for humanitarian and psychological support. Many HRDs also request legal aid due to an increasing trend of arbitrary arrests and charges.

Democracy and human rights cannot be achieved without human rights defenders. Through the Emergency Fund we ensure that they feel safe enough to continue their work which ultimately helps ensure that the fight for democracy can continue worldwide”, says Zinaida Muradova. 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/11/civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2020-goes-to-naw-ohn-hla/

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