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.

Sakharov Fellowship 1-13 April 2019 - call for applications