Emergency Fund – FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the Emergency Fund.

What is the Emergency Fund?

The Emergency Fund is a security mechanism provided by Civil Rights Defenders to human rights defenders globally. When a situation escalates and a human rights defender is facing acute danger, he/she can apply for rapid support through the fund. The Emergency Fund is used to, for example, temporarily relocate people or to quickly provide specific security improvements like steel doors, digital security software, or security cameras. Each intervention we do is based on carefully assessing and verifying the situation and threat level early on in the process.

What is a temporary relocation?

Temporary relocation is a form of relocation that allows human rights defenders to leave their home country or city for a short period of time in order to avoid high risks and threats that they are facing due to their human rights work.

What role does Civil Rights Defenders’ Emergency Fund play?

Through the Emergency Fund, we provide financial support for a temporary relocation. Together with the human rights defender, we do a risk assessment and discuss their plans and specific needs. We also discuss whether the human rights defender will continue their human rights work in the new location, how they can use the relocation to build their capacity, what their long-term sustainability plan is, and what exit strategy they have. We only provide financial and expert support, not any logistic or VISA support.

Is temporary relocation a requested type of support within the Emergency Fund?

Temporary relocation is one of the most requested types of support. It is a support that is unfortunately equally popular all over the globe. However, there are local specifics to the relocations. For example, temporary relocations in Africa and Asia in the majority of cases are within the country, while relocations requested from Eastern Europe, Russia and South Caucasus are often to a neighbouring country.   

What are the key challenges with temporary relocations?

There are many challenges but some of the most predominant include border crossing and the risks associated with that as well as cumbersome visa procedures. There are also risks associated with potential families that the defender leaves behind. It can be psychologically difficult and also result in a situation where the family are faced with increased threats, harassment and intimidation. Many regimes use pressure on families as a method to force the defender to return and thus psychosocial support is a crucial element of temporary relocation.

Does Civil Rights Defenders offer temporary relocations where the defender can bring their family?  

Yes, always. If the human rights defender feels the need to bring their family together with them, we always offer such support. It is especially crucial when working with women human rights defenders. In some cases, we can also provide temporary relocation for the human rights defender and at the same time humanitarian support to their family back home, while their breadwinner is away.  

What are the most common reasons for temporary relocations?

The reasons vary depending on many factors, such as the situation and region as well as on what type of work the human rights defender is involved in. For LGBTI+ activists, relocations are often related to physical attacks and pressure from local communities, while for journalists it is common that the reasons are fear of arrests or criminal prosecution. In many cases, the reasons are long-term harassment and intimidation by security agencies and authorities as well as severe psychological pressure.

To where does the human rights defender most commonly relocate?

With the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic, in-country relocations became more common. Due to travel restrictions imposed by governments around the world, many human rights defenders have no other choice but to relocate within their own country. However, before the pandemic, relocations to a neighbouring country were just as common as within the country. In many cases, human rights defenders feel safer outside the country and have more space and time for rest and respite.  

For how long is it common that the defender lives at a safe place before returning home?  

The most common relocation period is 3-6 months. In most cases, this time is enough for the situation to calm down and for the defender to be able to return home and continue their work. However, this is not always the case, in some cases, human rights defenders are forced to continue their relocation for a longer period and in the most extreme cases even build their lives and continue their work in exile.  

Are there other options than a temporary relocation?

Most human rights defenders turn to temporary relocation as a last resort when all other measures have been exhausted. Many stays and continue their work for as long as they feel it is possible without risking their lives and freedom, or the security of their family members. Other options that are available within the Emergency Fund framework are security improvement, psychosocial support, legal aid, humanitarian support, among others.

Does Civil Rights Defenders do any follow-up?

Upon ending a relocation period, Civil Rights Defenders follows up with the human rights defender to see how the relocation went and to evaluate the intervention. Part of it is to understand if the defender will be able to return and continue their work as well as how we can make sure that he/she is safe enough upon the return. Another part is to assess if the human rights defender has noticed any positive or negative effects of our intervention. These are valuable insights and lessons learnt that we utilise in our future assessments and security measures provided to human rights defenders.