10 years of Shelter City: kicking off the celebrations
On 21 April the Human Rights Defenders team at Justice & Peace organised the kick-off event and opening of the outdoor exhibition in The Hague for the 10-year anniversary of Shelter City and Shelter City The Hague. This milestone marks an important time where we look at the successes and impact of Shelter City, and also reaffirm our commitment to the protection of human rights defenders at risk.
From all of us at Justice & Peace, we thank all those that have supported Shelter City over these ten years, and those that support human rights defenders at risk.
10 years of Shelter City
In 2012, Justice & Peace founded Shelter City as a concrete and accessible way to support human rights defenders at risk, with The Hague as the founding city. After 10 years, Shelter City is now a global movement of 21 cities, over 300 individuals, and 100 organisations, embassies, and institutions across the globe that stand side by side with human rights defenders.
Shelter City provides safe spaces to human rights defenders at risk where they can re-energise, receive tailormade support and engage with allies to reinforce their local action for change.
Shelter City outdoor exhibition
In celebration of the 10-year anniversary of Shelter City The Hague, the Shelter City travelling outdoor exhibition has reached The Hague. It is on display at Turfmarkt, right across The Hague Central Station until 20 May.
The exhibition consists of 6 two-meter high portraits of former Shelter City guests, made by photographer Daniella van Bergen. Behind the portraits, it is possible to read the inspiring stories of these human rights defenders.
We thank the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Municipality of The Hague, and the Nationale Postcode Loterij and its participants for making the exhibition possible.
Mary Lawlor visits Shelter City for its anniversary
We were honored to welcome UN Special Rapporteur for human rights defenders Mary Lawlor to The Hague for the 10-year anniversary of Shelter City.
During her visit, she met with the staff of Justice & Peace and with Shelter City guests. She got to know more about Shelter City and our work with human rights defenders. The current Shelter City guests could connect with an important ally, express their concerns as human rights defenders and which kind of support they would like to receive from human rights institutions. We thank Mary Lawlor for her support to Shelter City and human rights defenders.
Shelter City 10-year anniversary event
During the 10-year event, we welcomed representatives from The Hague municipality, Shelter City partners, the current Shelter City guests in the Netherlands, ambassadors and others dedicated to human rights and human rights defenders.The event included speeches from five esteemed speakers: the Dutch Ambassador for Human Rights, Bahia Tahzib-Lie; the UN Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor; the current Shelter City guest Numan Afifi; the Head of the International Department of the Municipality of The Hague, Wim Jansen; and the Director of Justice & Peace, Sebastiaan van der Zwaan.
Relocation initiatives for human rights defenders
The speakers highlighted the importance of relocation initiatives for human rights defenders, such as Shelter City. As explained by Sebastiaan van der Zwaan, in 2012 Justice & Peace initiated Shelter City to counter the challenges, discrimination, stress, burnouts and violence that human rights defenders face all over the world. Justice & Peace believed and still believes that to support human rights for everyone everywhere, it is vital to support human rights defenders who are making a change at the local level.
“We can and should support those who are already making a change at the local level all over the world: human rights defenders” – Sebastiaan van der Zwaan, Director of Justice & Peace
Mary Lawlor also argued for increased support to human rights defenders by national governments and for governments to ensure flexible visas to defenders. This would benefit relocation initiatives such as Shelter City, which according to her, are very important for human rights defenders at risk. In her words: “we live in the shelter of each other”.
The impact of Shelter City
The speakers also highlighted the impact that Shelter City has made in these 10 years. Bahia Tahzib-Lie highlighted that Shelter City is making a real difference: through their stay in Shelter City, 400 human rights defenders have found renewed energy and determination to continue their activism in their local communities.
“(Shelter City) This empowering programme is significant for the sustainability of the work of human rights defenders.” – Bahia Tahzib-Lie, Dutch Human Rights Ambassador
This impact would have not been possible without the hard work and support of our partners and supporters. We were touched to see that many partners attended the event and shared their experience in hosting human rights defenders. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Ambassador Bahia Tahzib-Lie, and the Municipality of The Hague have also been active supporters of Shelter City. Furthermore, the support of the Nationale Postcode Loterij and its participants and the National Endowment for Democracy has allowed us to strengthen the impact of Shelter City. Together, we have made this milestone and achievements possible.
The future of Shelter City
The director of Justice & Peace Sebastiaan van der Zwaan looked at the future of Shelter City and invited more partners to join the movement, create more Shelter Cities and support human rights defenders at risk. All around the world, human rights defenders still face discrimination, violence, threats and are under immense pressure while doing their human rights work. In Sebastiaan van der Zwaan’s words: “Justice & Peace receives on average 600 applications per year for relocation from human rights defenders at risk, but we can only welcome around 30 to 35 people per year in the Netherlands. Good to be able to say that we have a growing network of cities, organisations and people, but there is much more needed.” More Shelter Cities are needed to support human rights defenders.
The local level has always been at the core of Shelter City. Wim Jansen described how The Hague has benefitted from the stay of human rights defenders. At the same time, defenders can benefit from an engaging local community that supports them and human rights. In Bahia Tahzib-Lie’s words: “Cities can play a significant role in supporting and showing solidarity with courageous human rights defenders at risk.”
“Cities can change the world. And cities that put human rights first of all, can still be among the most livable, most prosperous and peaceful places on Earth.” – Numan Afifi, Shelter City guest
Your turn to support Shelter City
Feel inspired? Want to become part of the Shelter City movement?
If you think your city can provide a safe and inspiring space for human rights defenders at risk, you can initiate the creation of a new Shelter City.
Check out the Shelter City manual on how to set up a Shelter City here.