Emergency Fund – 2021 in Numbers

Imprisoned protesters in Burma. Photo: Naw Seng Kumbau

Defending human rights has become increasingly dangerous in many parts of the world. Many of those who do, face numerous risks and threats on a daily basis. When a threatful situation towards a human rights defender escalates, Civil Rights Defenders’ Emergency Fund provides rapid assistance to strengthen the defender’s security as quickly as possible. 

The fund can, for example, provide legal aid or temporarily relocate people who suffer persecution, as well as provide preemptive efforts such as security trainings and digital security solutions. In 2021, the fund supported a total of 1421 human rights defenders in 30 countries. 

Emergency support doubled in 2021

In 2021, Civil Rights Defender’ Emergency Fund has received and processed the largest number of applications since the inception of the fund in 2012. We have supported a total of 1.421 Human Rights Defenders (HRD:s) and/or members of their families at risk through a total of 171 grants in 30 countries. The number of applications and granted support have thus both doubled compared to 2020.  

The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for human rights defenders, which is a significant explaining factor behind this increase. The CRD Emergency Fund has seen and reacted to the global backsliding of democracy and a number of emerging conflicts in 2021. The aftermath of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the military coup in Burma, the spring protests in Colombia, the witch-hunt on civil society in Belarus, the civil war in Ethiopia and the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan are only a few of the conflicts that have deteriorated the security situation for human rights defenders in 2021. Many human rights defenders cannot continue their work for human rights and democracy without the support of the outside world.

Although the number of applications has doubled, so has the number of Emergency Fund applications granted. This increase is much thanks to the additional resources that Civil Rights Defenders has been able to put into processing fund applications. 

“We are humbled to have been able to support so many human rights defenders in 2021. The need for emergency support is greater than ever, with the war in Ukraine the number of applicants is likely to keep increasing in the immediate future”, says Zinaida Muradova.

Case story: Kachinwaves News Agency, Burma

Kachinwaves News Agency is one of the recipients of emergency support in 2021. Launched by a group of people committed to the promotion of human rights through media, Kachinwaves is one of the oldest media agencies in the Kachin State of Burma and have for a long time been a vibrant news and books publishing house. 

After the military coup in Burma in February last year, security officials started a crackdown on journalists and media outlets. One of them was Kachinwaves. Through an Emergency Fund grant, their office was relocated to a secured location, their journalists provided with secured accommodation and their living expenses were covered. Arrested journalists and their families were assisted with legal aid, livelihood support and prison visitation support.

“Kachinwaves continued to report on human rights issues after the military coup, but our employees and their families were not feeling secure. Thanks to the support of the Emergency Fund, our staff were able to relocate and continue working without worrying about living expenses and security”, says a spokesperson for Kachinwaves.

Journalists at Kachinwaves working in their relocated office. Photo: Kachinwaves

With the support from the Emergency Fund, Kachinwaves have been able to continue their work. Their case illustrates one of the key purposes of the Emergency Fund – to enable human rights defenders to continue their tireless and important efforts to hold power to account. In 2021, approximately 92% of all grantees were able to continue their work after receiving support.

Emergency support to Burma and Asia has significantly increased in 2021, although the majority of human rights defenders who received emergency support continued to be from Africa. Additionally, the Emergency Fund continued to expand its global reach in five more regions – Eurasia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and MENA. In total, support was provided to human rights defenders in 30 countries during the course of 2021. 

Further advancing gender sensitivity 

The Emergency Fund continued to build on gender work started in 2019 to ensure a good gender balance and representation amongst the beneficiaries of support. We have been working to increase the accessibility of the mechanism for the most vulnerable groups. We see an improvement in gender balance, for example the percentage of non-conforming people supported doubled compared to 2020.

An increasing demand for legal aid and psychological support  

Despite the Covid 19 pandemic and continued strict restrictions on travel around the world, temporary relocations, where human rights defenders can reside safely for a short period, remained by far the most requested type of support in 2021. The majority of relocations were related to the major crises in countries mentioned above. Requests for preventive security measures to improve home, office or digital security, such as installing security cameras or digital security software, remained to be in high demand as well. Many HRD:s needed so called combined interventions, meaning a combination of several of the above mentioned support types. 

In 2021 The Emergency Fund has seen a noteworthy increase in requests for humanitarian and psychological support. Many HRDs also request legal aid due to an increasing trend of arbitrary arrests and charges.

“Democracy and human rights cannot be achieved without human rights defenders. Through the Emergency Fund we ensure that they feel safe enough to continue their work which ultimately helps ensure that the fight for democracy can continue worldwide”, says Zinaida Muradova. 

Zinaida Muradova, Head of Rapid Response at Civil Rights Defenders

Right now, more and more Ukrainian independent journalists are seeking support in order to remain in the country and continue reporting. You can support those who defend human rights in the region and are affected by the war (link below only available in swedish).

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