Attesting to growing knowledge of our work and recognition of our role as a trusted partner, we saw a significant increase in the number of times HRHF was contacted with requests for action or expertise. The source of these requests ranged from member NGOs of Human Rights Houses, to partner NGOs, to diplomats, politicians, and inter-governmental organisations – especially the UN and EU.
Significantly, following Norway’s joining of the Community of Democracies, HRHF was invited to participate as a “focal point” for Norway at the international organisation. This included participation in a ministerial meeting in Washington DC and later an invitation to join the Community as a full NGO participant. This brought us closer to trusted international, regional, and national NGOs and granted greater access to decision-makers and high-ranking officials. Participation in the Community of Democracies is also a good opportunity in view of potentially extending the network of Human Rights Houses to new countries.
HRHF continued reform within the International Law in Advocacy (ILIA) programme, which focuses on education in international human rights standards. This reform aims at decentralising the management of the programme and handing over its ownership, responsibilities, and educational and online resources to the Houses.
Nevertheless, the programme trained 540 human rights defenders in international human rights standards, a significant number bolstered by Houses using available resources for trainings at the national level. Positively, three quarters of people trained continue to cooperate and share their knowledge with the Human Rights Houses and their member NGOs.
The Houses are also leading a process to standardise the courses and materials that make up the online education component of the ILIA programme.
Within ILIA, two projects stood out during the year. Launching an online course in Ukraine for lawyers and judges, ILIA’s Ukrainian partner – Human Rights House Chernihiv – ran
a pilot project using ILIA online resources and IT support. Also, six ILIA experts joined staff to lead training as part of the Council of Europe’s HELP programme on human rights standards. Some 37 lawyers undertook the educational programme.
For the network of Human Rights Houses, 2017 was an exceptional year for cooperation. This was in part due to HRHF establishing a fund to support House-to-House projects, which provided mini-grants to encourage knowledge and competency sharing, joint projects and pooled resources.
The interest in the fund exceeded all our expectations, with 15 projects financed through the fund and successfully implemented throughout the year. Out of a total of 23 joint projects undertaken by the Houses and their member NGOs, HRHF had a role in the implementation of only nine of them, demonstrating the ownership and autonomy of the Houses in carrying out projects within the network.
In 2017, HRHF commissioned an external evaluation of the Human Rights House concept and its advocacy component. HRHF raised the question whether 25 years on, in a different and fast changing world, existing Human Rights Houses respond to local needs and whether different House models are still fit for purpose to serve the human rights cause, as part of the effort to strengthen civil society as a whole.
For more on HRHF’s impact in 2017, read our annual report.