Highlights of our work in 2019

We provided needs-based capacity building and enhancement to human rights defenders and lawyers from our target countries on topics such as human rights documentation and campaigning, legal writing skills, strategic planning and the use of universal jurisdiction as a tool to ensure accountability for gross human rights violations. We organized seven on-site trainings that benefited a total of 127 activists, as well as a series of remotely administered webinars that had reached over 50 activists by the end of the year.

We secured critically important financial support for the work of our local partners in the FSU region, amounting to over EUR 1 million in total. To this end, we actively sought out funding opportunities, built in-country and cross border project partnerships and worked with partners on developing joint applications to international donors. Our assistance helped local civil society groups survive, develop and thrive.

We built and strengthened in-country and cross-border cooperation among civil society actors in and beyond our target region by supporting coalition building and reinforcing existing networks. In this way, we promoted solidarity and unity, and ensured more coordinated responses to pressing human rights issues, which increased the impact of campaigning efforts.

We worked with in-country partners on researching and documenting human rights abuses taking place across the FSU region, as well as on bringing out this empirical evidence and analysis through publications. Our publications included regular updates developed as part of our cooperation with the global CIVICUS Monitor initiative to track civil society space; reports tailored to feed into the policy and review processes of international institutions; and appeals and statements that drew attention to alarming developments and called for justice for victims of violations. We used the publications for targeted engagement with officials and decision makers at the international level and they were important sources of information for diplomats, experts, practitioners and others with an interest in the FSU region.

We also carried out in-depth investigations of human rights violations through fact-finding missions to our target countries and interviews with victims and witnesses. In this way, we gathered detailed, first-hand information on issues such as the persecution of human rights activists in Crimea; the use of excessive force against peaceful protestors in Azerbaijan; pressure on media and journalists in Tajikistan; and the lack of justice for victims of human rights abuses related to the 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict.

We conducted strategic international-level advocacy that informed and influenced the policies of relevant institutions and bodies of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations on human rights issues in the FSU countries. As part of our advocacy programme, we were in regular contact with key officials, used important opportunities to channel information to influential policymakers and focal points, and carried out targeted campaigning together with partners when most needed to have an impact.

We stepped up outreach, especially through social media platforms to raise awareness and mobilize support on human rights causes in our target countries among a broader international public. As part of the #MeetYourDefender campaign, we released a series of videos featuring personal, inspiring stories of human rights defenders aimed at challenging the negative narratives on human rights work that are widespread across the FSU. By the end the year, the seven videos published since March 2019 had attracted more than 100,000 views.

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