Human rights defenders & security

Shelter City Initiative

Shelter City is a national initiative of Justice and Peace in collaboration with Dutch cities, focusing specifically on the protection of Human Rights Defenders. Human Rights Defenders are fighting against violations of human rights in their countries, often at the expense of their own safety. They face serious risks, arbitrary detention, torture and even 'disappearances'.

"the Council of The Hague has supported the Shelter City initiative since it began in 2012. I am really pleased that Shelter City has since been adopted in eight cities in the Netherlands." (The Hague alderman Ingrid van Engelshoven - opening speech Photo Exhibition We are all human rights defenders5 December 2016)

When Human Rights Defenders are under intense pressure because of their work, they can apply for a three-month temporary shelter in one of the ten Dutch Shelter Cities: Amsterdam, The Hague, Middelburg, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Tilburg, Groningen, Haarlem, Deventer and Zwolle. In these eleven cities, about twenty Human Rights Defenders per year can be provided rest and respite.

During their stay in The Netherlands, the Human Rights Defenders may continue their work safely. Furthermore, they are able to extend their network of civil society organisations and political contacts in The Hague, Brussels and further. The Human Rights Defenders also follow trainings to strengthen their skills and improve their safety, while increasing public awareness in the Shelter Cities by speaking about human rights and the work they do at public events and workshops. One of the main objectives is for Human Rights defenders to feel empowered to continue their work back home in a more efficient an secure way.


  • The participants for the first round of 2018 have been selected in January 2018.
  • From February 2018 the new participants have started their Shelter City programmes.
  • The next call is scheduled for June 2018.

Watch short videos featuring former Shelter City participants.

On the EU Human Rights Defenders Relocation Platform you'll find information about other temporary relocation initiatives for human rights defenders at risk. 

More info? Contact Suzan Goes, Suzan.Goes[at], Programme Officer.