Supporting defenders

Sakharov Fellowship for human rights defenders

2019 fellows & EP President Antonio Tajani

The European Parliament empowers the next generation of human rights defenders to serve as agents of democratic change in their countries.

The Sakharov Fellowship offers up to 14 human rights defenders from non-EU countries the opportunity to follow a two-week intensive training course, with one week in Brussels and one week on the Global Campus for Human Rights in Venice. The programme has been organised annually since 2016. The idea for the Fellowship came from the Sakharov Prize Community, which proposed it during the 25th Anniversary Conference of the Sakharov Prize.

Under the Sakharov Fellowship training programme, human rights defenders can

• enhance their knowledge of EU and international human rights frameworks, policies and mechanisms, and

• develop capacities to advocate for and effect positive change to protect human rights.

Beyond the training, Sakharov fellows

• expand the network of Sakharov fellows to share best practices, disseminate their knowledge and extend awareness of the Sakharov Prize and the Sakharov Prize Community;

• maintain links with the European Parliament and EU Delegations in their countries.

The Brussels programme focuses on: access to funding, communications skills, security challenges facing human rights defenders, and EU policies and tools that support human rights defenders. It also includes meetings with Members of Parliament, officials of the EU institutions and Brussels-based NGOs. The fellows have opportunities to pursue advocacy and networking activities.

In Venice, the fellows enrol in the Venice School of Human Rights alongside international human rights students. The lectures focus on developing knowledge of international human rights law, instruments and mechanisms and on how to use these to effect change on the ground. Lecturers include prominent academics, representatives of leading human rights NGOs, Sakharov Prize laureates, and Members of the European Parliament.

Candidates should have a proven record in campaigning for human rights - on their own, or working with an NGO or other organisation. They must have a high level of English, in order to follow and contribute to discussion groups and workshops in Brussels and Venice.

The selection of fellows is based on the criteria mentioned above, as well as gender balance, and the representation of a variety of geographical areas and human rights issues.


DG EXPO - Human Rights Actions Unit

European Parliament
Rue Wiertz 60
B-1047 Brussels