Human rights defenders and organisations that seek to improve their protection are being offered a process of coaching, training and advice.

The defender can improve its ability to assess the needs of his organization in terms of security. He also obtains an ongoing support for the use of specific protection methods, measures and topics. An example of a method is the tactic of organising the community to collectively respond to threats and set up early warning systems. An example of a measure is the preventive warning of authorities that can intervene or prepare a hiding place. Examples of topics are office security, the use of United Nations special mechanisms (link) and digital security.

Our intervention is based on a number of specific steps. Firstly, our capacity-building process is agreed between us and the defender(s), to define the best set of interventions and address the specific needs of each human rights defender and her/his organization,.

Risk assessment and security planning

The second step is the implementation of these interventions. They will often include training sessions, with different levels of complexity according to their capacities in security and the actual needs of the group of defenders. One of the aims of these trainings is to achieve a security plan based on a thorough risk assessment process.

This work is, in most cases, carried out by our Protection Desk staff, who have a deep knowledge of human rights defenders related issues and challenges. They base their intervention on a set of manuals that are the result of long-term research in the field of protection. Among them : the New Protection Manual for Human Rights Defenders (link), the Protection Manual for LGBTI Defenders (link) and the Protection Guide for Defenders working in rural areas (link). When we work with an organization based outside the geographical scope of our Protection Desk, experts from our Training and Research Unit will take the process in charge.

Long-term support and promotion of defenders’ autonomy

However, protection is not achieved with a few days of training only. Improving one organisation’s security often means that the defender needs to change his behaviour, and the organisation, its culture and ways. An organization could want its members to be alert and report surveillance, or simply pay attention to the way they use Facebook. Irrespective of the topic, bringing such change is a complex process and takes time. Therefore, we accompany human rights defenders in overcoming the obstacles they meet. This can be provided through meetings with the leadership of the organisation, facilitating a staff debate, or arranging consultations, coaching sessions or site visits.

We aim at the defenders’ autonomy regarding the security and protection logic and process; as ownership of security and independence are part of the security itself. Indeed it requires non-dependency on others regarding the understanding of risk and the implementation of security measures.

In order to ensure sustainability, our capacity building also strives at providing defenders the ability to transfer their capacities and knowledge on security and protection to other defenders and/or their beneficiaries.