What is RARE?
Together with the Netherlands and Hungarian Helsinki Committees, the Hertie School is connecting 27 leading European human rights defenders in a two-years capacity- and alliance-building programme.
Recharging advocacy for Rights in Europe (RARE) will help form an embryonic 'civic intervention force' operating with a heightened understanding of cross-border spill-over effects and mobilising support throughout the entire European space to buttress resilience.
Why do we need RARE?
If the European Union (EU) wants to remain a global champion of high democratic standards and human rights protection, it must also take action ' at home' within the union itself to protect and fortify defenders of the civic space in countries formerly considered safe havens for human rights work.
An understanding must take root that sees an attack on one civic organisation operating in one jurisdiction as a threat against all others too. National human rights NGOs need to broaden their portfolio and become active advocates vis à vis the governments and parliaments of other European countries as well as multilateral organisations.
How will we recharge advocacy for rights in Europe?
This initiative will bring solidarity and cooperation into practice. Over the course of nine camps in different European cities (see below) participants will be equipped with the skills, resources and the European network their organisations need to counteract increasingly challenging national operating contexts.
Moreover, the programme offers them a platform for networking, learning from one another and for collaboration on collective European projects. It enhances their organisations’ visibility in the international public sphere and at official (media-covered) occasions and opens up opportunities for joint advocacy campaigns and lobbying. HRDs will develop a joint strategic action plan throughout the duration of the project.
Meet the people behind RARE
Check out their profiles here!
22-23 March 2021
This camp will serve to set the stage for the two-year-long programme and the joint advocacy strategy. It will allow all key programme stakeholders to meet, evaluate specific course needs and map potential actors and networks. Most importantly, the planning camp will be used to outline the joint strategic plan of action. Already in this first camp, participating organisations will begin to identify potential areas for collaborative advocacy. This will include mapping two-to-three years of potential activities and identifying key European capitals where they should be focused.
10-12 May 2021
Strategy and thought processes accompanying its formation are often neglected in the day-to-day operations of many HRD organisations. This camp provides participating HRDs with the time and practical guidance needed to effectively hone their strategic thinking skills and their organisations' action strategies. Participants will work together to co-design collaborative strategies for strengthening their inter-organisational solidarity and overall impact. Practical perspectives will be conveyed through high-level meetings with, for example, the German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid and the German Chancellery.
The camp will also pay attention to the links between human rights, rule of law and democracy, the foundation on which the EU has been built. As part of this camp, the programme envisions a panel discussion with leading external experts hosted by the Hertie School’s Centre for Fundamental Rights.
Berlin, 29 June-2 July 2021
The work of HRDs is about imagining, advocating for and making change happen, but this has become increasingly challenging in complex or even restrictive political and social contexts. In this camp, participants will look at how to frame and deliver their messages on civic space and the rule of law in new and creative ways. They will start by examining their political contexts, the drivers of populism and move on to examining and experimenting with effective new ways to describe their values and visions of the future to various audiences.
The Hague, 20-23 September 2021
Many HRD organisations have a solid knowledge of the traditional tenets or foundations of human rights but they may not be as comfortable with applying those to new challenges, which include digital or environmental challenges, evolving human rights theory and practices, changing social contexts and new ways of civic participation (among others). The four-day camp in The Hague will change that. Participating HRDs will be exposed to 'human rights 2.0' through an examination of evolving human rights standards in the age of digital technologies, establishing digital practices and defenses and using online tools and investigation skills to continually monitor state surveillance systems deployed in response to the pandemic. A first focus will be on innovative thinking, where we will examine evolving human rights standards in the age of digital technologies. A second focus of the camp will be to familiarise participants with subsidiary tools and instruments that the Council of Europe offers (e.g.. ECtHR, European Committee of Social Rights). Moreover, participants will be able to meet with leading Dutch civic actors and think tanks.
Vienna, 8-10 November 2021
Building on skills acquired in previous camps, participants will explore how to strengthen existing organisational advocacy techniques and strategies. They will share their experiences and improve their understanding of key elements of a successful advocacy campaign, including how to define or frame an issue, crafting a multi-channel messaging strategy, how to effectively present the problem or policy idea for different audiences, as well as writing for and persuading readers.
They will also look at how to bring international attention to their cause and build international support coalitions. Taking place in Vienna, the programme will also include fireside chats and meetings with Vienna-based organisations, most notably the OSCE and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency.
Berlin, 4 days, January 2022
Strengthening the internal leadership of the participants' organisations is essential for their long-term survival and success. Camp V will focus on how participants can use personal leadership to protect and strengthen their organisations from within during times of change and crisis, but also how to inspire others to take similar action. Taking place in Warsaw, the programme will also include two days at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting with side events and meetings with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and its Human Rights and Democratisation Departments.
Brussels, 3 days, March 2022
Camp VII will focus on equipping participants with the deep networking skills they need to develop long-lasting connections that they can use to protect and empower their organisations, including by developing sustainable relationships with funders. Participants will see how to maximise the value of their network and will discuss how to balance various moral, ethical and strategic dilemmas in their activism.
This will be complemented by a variety of pre-arranged meetings with NGO network members and NGO stakeholders located in Brussels. Envisioned visits include organisations such as: The Open Society European Policy Institute, European Policy Center - Connecting Europe Programme, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Brussels, as well as various EU member state representations and EU institutions, including visits to MEPs.
Vienna, 2 days, May 2022
Beyond the purely educational components, this camp is designed to be action-oriented, allowing participants to collaborate directly and apply the skills taught in the first three-quarters of the project. Camp VIII will review progress on the joint strategic action plan and develop plans for joint advocacy activities, through which participant organisations can collaborate and apply their learnings.
Networking opportunities are also envisioned in the programme, with visits to various Vienna-based organisations such as the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, supportive OSCE Delegations and Institutions (OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media) and various members of the Steering Group of the OSCE Democracy Defender Initiative.
Finally, this camp will offer participants one-on-one short consultations with a digital security expert in cooperation with Front Line Defenders.
Cres, 2 days, June 2022
To close, Camp IX focuses on how participants can further professionalise their organisations and strengthen organisational cultures that foster self-care. Given the broader pressures that HRDs and human rights workers face in many countries, focusing on how organisations can prevent burn-out and attract and retain employees is essential.
The final camp will also look at ways in which participants can use relevant advanced management tools and guide their organisations through periods of change. Finally, participants will be able to reflect on the broader achievements of their two year-long programme and can use the opportunity to further advance their collaborative inter-organisational advocacy project.
RARE @ the EU’s State of the Union (May 2021)
The fringe event on 'Alliances for better protecting the rule of law and civic space in the EU’ at the European University Institute’s State of the Union 2021 conference on 6 May 2021 looked beyond the legal and political instruments available to strengthen the rule of law, and focused on the supporting architecture for strengthening the rights protection of European citizens. The panellists - the Polish Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Prof. Laurent Pech and Márta Pardavi, RARE course lead - drew on their experience within national human rights institutions, EU institutions, civil society and academia and discussed how transnational initiatives can act and cooperate more effectively to protect civic space.
Meet the course lead:
Márta Pardavi, Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2019.
For more information on the partners behind this initiative, watch this video documenting the work of Márta Pardavi and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.