FAQ – Civil Rights Defenders of the Year Award

What is the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award? 

The Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award is an award for outstanding work in defence of civil and political rights. It is awarded every year by Civil Rights Defenders. With the award, we recognise  prominent human rights defenders who, despite the risks to their own safety, continue the struggle for civil and political rights. The award highlights the situation of human rights defenders at risk. It enhances their human rights work by providing international recognition and support to the award recipient. 

Since when have you been awarding the Civil Rights Defenders of the Year Award? 

Civil Rights Defenders has awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award every year since 2013. 

How do you select the award recipient? 

The recipient of each award is selected by the Board of Civil Rights Defenders. The selection is made from candidates presented to the Board by the organisation’s secretariat. The secretariat makes their choices based on nominations submitted from our worldwide network of human rights defenders, human rights organisations, and other relevant partners.  

How can I nominate someone for the award? 

Nomination for the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award is by invitation only. Civil Rights Defenders invites its worldwide network of human rights defenders and human rights organisations to nominate candidates for the award. 

Why is Mariia Sulialina receiving this year’s award? 

The Board of Civil Rights Defenders has selected this year’s award recipient with the following motivation: Ukrainian human rights defender Mariia Sulialina has, at a young age, already achieved the accomplishments of a lifetime. Despite personal losses and great risks, she has continued her work to document war crimes and ensure justice for children from the occupied territories of Ukraine who have fallen victim to indoctrination and deportation. As the leader of the organisation Almenda, Mariia and her colleagues fight for access to education in the occupied territories, and advocate for the return and reintegration of Ukrainian youth.  

For her exceptional resilience and dedication to human rights, democracy and children’s right to determine their own future, Mariia Sulialina is awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2024. 

Aren’t there other human rights defenders who deserve attention?   

Civil Rights Defenders supports thousands of human rights defenders from all over the world. We are proud to be able to continue these partnerships and everyone is equally important. Each year several high-quality nominations are submitted by Civil Rights Defenders’ network. Civil Rights Defenders’ Board chooses the candidate that meets the criteria the best.     

What is the human rights situation in Ukraine today?  

Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the human rights situation in Ukraine has deteriorated.  Despite the danger to their own lives, many people have chosen to remain in Ukraine to try to document what is now happening in the country. Several organisations have gone from working with civil rights to now documenting war crimes. Many in Ukraine are now either soldiers or activists and volunteers.   

How do you work to support human rights activists in Ukraine?   

Civil Rights Defenders has for many years collaborated with human rights activists, LGBTQI activists and independent media in Ukraine. Since the full-scale invasion started, there has been a lot of focus on supporting journalists and human rights activists on the ground so that they can stay in the country and continue their important work. These include providing psychosocial support to frontline journalists and civil society activists in the temporarily occupied territories, helping human rights defenders evacuate and temporarily move to safe locations, partnering with organisations documenting war crimes, and supporting independent media covering the war and human rights violations.    

Read more about our work in Ukraine here.  

In what way does Civil Rights Defenders support the recipient in the day-to-day work? 

When a recipient is chosen, Civil Rights Defenders assesses together with the recipient how we best can work long term to support their human rights work. Civil Rights Defenders has over 200 long term partnerships around the world and each partnership is unique in order to strengthen local civil societies in line with our mission.    

Does the award make any difference?   

The award creates recognition and credibility of human rights defenders and their work. Many times, the recognition also works as a protective shield against threats and attacks directed at the recipient and their organisation. Human rights defenders operate under extreme pressure and the psychosocial aspects of recognition and support helps endure this pressure while at the same time governments and those on power become aware that the world is watching them.      

Will the award make the work of the recipient more difficult? 

When a recipient has been chosen by Rights Defenders’ Board, the recipient is contacted and asked if they want to receive the award. Civil Rights Defenders and the recipient stays in close contact and discuss all aspects of the award to ensure that the award strengthens their work for human rights. For many award recipients, receiving the award strengthens their security thanks to the international recognition that the award entails.   

What does the award consist of?   

The award consists of a statuette, a diploma and a joint effort with the award recipient to raise awareness about their work.  

Who are the past award recipients? 

The award recipients typically work in countries in which they are not free to do their vital human rights work, or in which their rights to do so are under attack. In response, they have stood up to defend civil and political rights for both themselves and for others. For a full list of past award recipients, see here

How can I contribute to the work of Civil Rights Defenders? 

The easiest way to contribute to our work is via a gift to Civil Rights Defenders. Your gift strengthens human rights defenders in some of the world’s most repressive regions. Click here to learn how to support our work. 

I’m a journalist and have questions about the award. How do I get in touch? 

Press inquires are welcome. You can reach us at +46 (0)76 576 27 62 or press@crd.org