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 a prominent human rights defender who, despite the risk to their own safety, continues 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.

Who is Civil Rights Defenders?

Civil Rights Defenders is a politically and religiously independent human rights organisation headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden. Our vision is a world of democratic societies in which we all enjoy our civil and political rights. We defend civil and political rights together with local human rights defenders to increase their security, capacity, and access to justice. Read more about our work here.

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. Read more about the nomination and selection process here.

Why is Xheni and Frank receiving this year’s award?

Xheni Karaj, from Albania, and Frank Mugisha, from Uganda, are two of the world’s most courageous LGBTI+ activists and human rights defenders. Despite working in environments where homophobia is widespread, they continue fighting with impressive resilience, for every individual’s right to have their own sexual orientation and gender identity. They have both been instrumental in building LGBTI+ movements in their countries and inspire LGBTI+ activists all over the Balkan region and the African continent.   

Why them and their work?

Civil Rights Defenders works with 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 a large number of high-quality nominations are submitted by Civil Rights Defenders’ network. Civil Rights Defenders’ Board chooses the candidate that meets the criteria the best.  

Read more about the nomination and selection process here.

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 type of work are you doing for LGBTI+ people in Albania and Uganda?

We work with courageous activists around the world to increase their opportunities to work in Albania, Uganda and other countries where LGBTQI people are subjected to violence, hate speech and discrimination. We contribute, for example, with financial support, education and help with advocacy work to improve the situation for LGBTQI people. We also support events and events in the world that bring together LGBTQI people. For example, we have long been involved in organizing Pride parades in the Western Balkans, which has led to all the capitals in the region now having annual Pride celebrations. Belgrade Pride, previously banned four times, now hosts EuroPride in September. In many places in the world, working for LGBTQI rights is fraught with danger. Among other things, we work through an emergency fund where we assist with various forms of protection, such as security doors, safe accommodation and so on for those who need it. 

Homophobia and discrimination exists in many countries, why are you focusing on Albania and Uganda?

The situation for LGBTI+ people is difficult in many countries, and we cooperate with LGBTI+ activists in several parts of the world. Civil Rights Defenders is lifting the situation Uganda and Albania with this year’s prize, as this year’s laureates come from these countries. They are role models within the LGBTI+ movement not only in their home countries but also globally, and together with them we want to highlight the global fight for LGBTI+ people’s rights. 

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 their work 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 prize entails.  

What does the prize consist of?  

The prize 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 give.

How do you ensure that the money is used in the right way?  

Civil Rights Defenders is a non-profit organisation controlled by Svensk Insamlingskontroll (org.nr. 802011-1442). In our annual reports and effect reports you can read more about our work and financing here.  

How are you financed?  

Our work is financed by governmental organisations, the Swedish Postcode Lottery, foundations, and through corporate partnerships, as well as contributions from the public. 

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.