In many countries, people defending freedom and human rights come under pressure.
Human rights defenders face intimidation, social push-back, they are labelled 'criminal' or
'traitor', arrested or worse. Defenders in Dordrecht (DiD) offers human rights defenders a
short stay in the town of Dordrecht, The Netherlands. For a period of rest, reflection,
networking, gaining new skills and recharging the battery. Thus preparing for a return and
continuation of the struggle for freedom and human rights in their country.
What is the purpose?
The aim is to sustain the work for fundamental freedoms and human rights in countries
where it is risky to speak out. Defenders in Dordrecht contributes by offering a short period
away from the pressure, to rest and rethink strategy. This prevents human rights defenders
from burning out, giving up the fight, and/or leaving their country permanently.
Important other impact
The knife cuts in more than one way: the citizens of Dordrecht contribute to the promotion of human
rights in the world. And some of the visiting human rights defenders will be keen to share
their story with the citizens of Dordrecht, young and old. This makes the stay mutually
Who is welcome?
Any rights defender who would benefit from a short stay in Dordrecht is welcome. We take
the United Nations’ definition of human rights defenders as a guide: it is about people who,
individually or with others, act to defend or promote human rights. Some defenders are
under pressure for a long period of time. And that takes its toll. Defenders in Dordrecht is
open to people who 'just' need a break from their environment and continue their work. But
also for people who primarily want to rest and recuperate.
Examples: an investigative journalist who exposes corruption in the health care system; a
president of a community association protecting the right to livelihood of fellow villagers; a
student documenting torture by the local police; a lawyer who defends the rights of children
recruited by a local rebel group; or an LGBT activist. The common denominators are that
they have been under pressure because of their work for human rights and that a short stay
in Dordrecht helps them continue their struggle.
What does Dordrecht offer?
Rest, reflection & recharging.
Defenders in Dordrecht offers a short stay in our town. With accommodation, a modest
contribution to the cost of living, a nice workplace if opportune, care if needed, a social
network and, depending on the wishes of the defender, the possibility to develop specific
expertise or skills (e.g. language, safety, stress management). Networks play an important
role in human rights work; Defenders in Dordrecht can link the defender up with
international organisations and institutions in the Netherlands, Belgium and other European
And after the stay?
After staying in Dordrecht, the human rights defender returns home to continue her or his
struggle for fundamental rights and freedoms. This return is carefully prepared, with a
proper security plan. Defenders in Dordrecht keeps in touch.
DiD in the Netherlands, Europe
Defenders in Dordrecht is an initiative of citizens of Dordrecht. The initiative matches with
the Dutch foreign policy on human rights which prioritises support to defenders. Defenders
in Dordrecht collaborates with similar initiatives in and outside The Netherlands and is a
member of the European Shelter City platform.
In many situations, a stay far away in Dordrecht is not the ideal response to what the human
rights defender is facing. A short stay in her/his own region might work better. Defenders in
Dordrecht aspire to connect in the long term with like-minded citizens running similar
initiatives in cities in Africa, Asia or Latin America.
Support is welcome
Defenders in Dordrecht is a citizen initiative. Financial support or support in the form of
housing, a workplace, translation (depending on the language of the defender) or other is
Defenders in Dordrecht is a foundation (not for profit) under Dutch law, with a Board of
three. Our Chamber of Commerce registration number is 60744081.