Sakharov Fellowship 23 March-4 April 2020 - call for applications

The European Parliament's Sakharov Fellowship offers up to 14 human rights defenders selected from non-EU countries the opportunity to follow a two week intensive training in Brussels and the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation in Venice. It has been organised annually since 2016 further to an initiative taken by the Sakharov Prize Network at the 25th Anniversary Conference of the Sakharov Prize.

Under the Sakharov Fellowship training programme human rights defenders will

•   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 will

•   help grow the network of Sakharov Fellows to share best practices, disseminate the acquired knowledge and extend awareness of the Sakharov Prize and the Sakharov Prize Network;

•   have the opportunity to maintain links with the work of the European Parliament and continue liaising with EU Delegations in their respective countries.

The Brussels programme focuses on EU policies and tools in support of human rights defenders, accessing funding, developing communications skills, and raising awareness of specific security challenges facing human rights defenders. It further includes meetings with Members of Parliament, officials of the EU institutions and Brussels-based NGOs. The Fellows will also have space for individual advocacy and networking activities.

In Venice, Fellows will be enrolled in the EIUC's Venice School of Human Rights which combines academic teaching and sharing the Fellow's experiences with an international audience of students in human rights. The aim is to develop knowledge of international human rights law, instruments and mechanisms and 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 in a NGO or other organisation or in an individual capacity. They must have a high level of English, sufficient to follow and contribute to discussion groups and workshops in Brussels and Venice.

The selection of Fellows is based on the above criteria and the need to ensure gender balance as well as the representation of a variety of geographical areas and human rights issues.

The Fellowship covers return travel from the country of origin, accommodation in Brussels and Venice and a daily living allowance. The deadline for applications is 6 January 2020 at noon Brussels time (CET). Successful candidates will receive confirmation by email, latest by 3 February 2020.

Sakharov Fellowship 2019 a success

The Sakharov Fellows 2019 came from Algeria, Canada, Colombia, Haiti, Iran, Kenya, Morocco, Montenegro, the Philippines, Russia, South Sudan, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. All are already strongly engaged in defending and promoting human rights.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and the 2019 Sakharov fellows stand in front of an EU banner

Antonio Tajani, EP President, meets with the Sakharov Fellows - © European Union (2019) - European Parliament

Tools and knowledge to bring home from Brussels

In Brussels (1-5 April), the Fellows met with European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Vice-President Heidi Hautala, who is in charge of the Sakharov Prize Network.

During their fellowship, they focused on understanding how the EU defends and promotes human rights, and on the mechanisms the EU provides to protect and support human rights defenders. Fellows also discussed their human rights concerns with the staff of different European institutions: the Commission, the External Action Service and the Council of Ministers.

Fellows acquired insights into how European Parliament human rights urgency resolutions are proposed, discussed and approved.

During the week in Brussels, FEMEN activist Inna Shevchenko shared her experience with provocative advocacy action, while Brussels-based NGOs, such as Frontline Defenders and the International Federation of Human Rights, explained how human rights organisations interact with EU institutions.

Fellows watched MEPs at work when they attended a meeting of the Sub-Committee on Human Rights. In individual meetings with MEPs, fellows had an opportunity to practice hands-on human rights advocacy.  In two workshops, they were given decisive tools for human rights work such as communication and media outreach, cybersecurity, personal safety and well-being. The fellows also touched base with local human rights work by discovering the roots and success stories of the Belgian LGBTI movement in Brussels' Rainbow House.

Deepening the knowledge in Venice


At the Global Campus Venice School of Human Rights (6-13 April 2019), the fellows mingled with a group of international students to enhance their knowledge of human rights law and instruments.

They discussed a variety of issues linked to the practical work of human rights defenders. The 2017 Sakharov Prize laureate Lorent Saleh from Venezuela and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst were among the speakers opening the programme. The public roundtable discussion with both of them was web-streamed.

An investment in the future


Sakharov Fellows are encouraged to share and spread the knowledge and experience they have acquired in the programme in their home countries.

After the two-week training, they can provide valuable input to Parliament's human rights work and help identify opportunities for human rights action in their countries.

Strengthening links to local human rights activists and empowering them is part of the European Parliament's broader efforts to support human rights and democracy worldwide. The Sakharov Fellowship has been organised annually since 2016, on an initiative by the Sakharov Prize Network.