Executive Education

Recharging Advocacy for Rights in Europe


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. The situation for human rights defenders (HRDs) in a number of EU countries is becoming increasingly tenuous.

A shrinking civic space has many repercussions for organisations defending human rights. This practice encompasses harassment through propaganda media or social media, statements by politicians, investigations or even legislation targeting the work or resources of HRDs. These actions are meant to: intimidate HRDs, stigmatise them, weaken their credibility, turn their supporters and clients away, demoralise and burn out their staff, strong-arm them into shifting their organisational focus to a reactive mode, and force them to direct their resources towards fighting for their survival and away from initiatives that foster cooperation with their counterparts within and beyond their national setting.

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. At the heart of this programme is an idea to create an embryonic 'civic intervention force' operating not only with a heightened understanding of cross-border spill-over effects but also of mobilising support throughout the entire European space to buttress resilience. Participating HRDs will function as multipliers, equipping their organisations with the skills, resources, and the European network needed to counteract increasingly challenging national operating contexts. This initiative will bring solidarity and cooperation into practice by equipping NGOs with tools of resilience and growth. 



In cooperation with its partners, the NHC and the HHC, the Hertie School is offering a long-term capacity- and alliance-building programme to 25 leading representatives of human rights defender NGOs based and operating in one of the following EU member states: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Running over a period of two years, this programme will strengthen the effectiveness of their work and will foster close cooperation within the group, supporting them in their efforts to become valiant and strategic policy advocates and leaders.

Over the course of the nine camps in different European cities and coordinated pre-/post camp activities, participating human rights defenders (HRDs) will see their analytical, strategic, advocacy, communication, and leadership skills strengthened.

Moreover, the programme offers them a platform for networking, learning from one another and for collaboration on collective European projects. It will enhance their organisations’ visibility in the international public sphere and at official (media-covered) occasions and open up opportunities for joint advocacy campaigns and lobbying. In addition to the completion of nine capacity-building camps (for thematic-focus camps see the section below), participating HRDs will develop a joint strategic action plan throughout the duration of the project.

Camps and related advocacy events will take place in: Berlin, The Hague, Budapest, Warsaw, Vienna, Brussels and Cres.

Fighting for human rights in an environment of a shrinking civic space

For more information on the partners behind this initiative, watch this video documenting the work of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and its co-chair Márta Pardavi, who was nominated as Civil Rights Defender of the Year in 2019 and will be the course convener.


Camps (Oct.2020 - June 2022)

The thematic focus and time frame of each of the nine capacity-building camps will be:




Who is this programme for?

The programme is intended for professionals whose work and interests are directly related to the protection of human rights in the EU and especially in one of the following countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Applicants must be representatives of an HRD organisation who are in a senior/(potential) leadership postion and therefore qualify as future multipliers.

The aim of this programme is to support leading HRD organisations operating in vulnerable European contexts and with potential for growth in and impact on their national settings. Applicants should come from organisations with an existing track record of high-quality work in fundamental rights and rule of law issues with potential for cross-European advocacy. Applicants should have the capacity and commitment to participate in all programme activities and develop a long-term cooperation with fellow European civic organisations.




Please apply via our online application module: https://application.hertie-school.org/.  
If you do not have an account there yet, please register first and then choose "Recharging  Advocacy for Rights in Europe" in the drop-down menu "study programme".

The closing date for applications is 20 August 2020 (23:59 CEST).

When registering, please select “Recharging Advocacy for Rights in Europe” under study programme and upload the following:

  • Your CV in PDF format
  • A letter of motivation (in PDF format, max. one page) in which you outline why you are the ideal multiplier within your organisation and how your organisation fits the criteria outlined above
  • For scholarship applicants only: A short explanation in the designated field why partial funding for hotel and accomodation cannot be provided by your employer

Programme costs and scholarships

Due to limited funding, participants should be ready to cover part of their travel and hotel costs. All other costs will be covered by the project.

A number of scholarships will be available for selected participants whose participation would otherwise not be possible. If this applies to your situation, please use the respective field in the application module to briefly explain why your employer cannot provide funding to cover part of your travel and accomodation costs.