Front Line Defenders, Ireland

2006-2007 King Baudouin International Development Prize


For the effectiveness of their efforts to combat the isolation faced by human rights defenders around the world, for the support and protection that they offer them, and for their continuing advocacy in favour of an international plan of action for human rights, which is an essential condition for development.”


Front Line: the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, is the only international NGO that is exclusively dedicated to the support and protection of human rights defenders. Front Line was founded in 2001, under the leadership of the former Executive Director of the Irish section of Amnesty International, encouraged by a number of key leaders in the
human rights movement.

Front Line’s specific aim is to work for the protection of human rights defenders at immediate risk and to provide practical means to improve their security. Since its creation in 2001, Front Line has worked on behalf of more than 600 human rights defenders in over 100 countries.

Front Line combines “round-the-clock” practical support with international advocacy, which promotes visibility and the recognition of human rights defenders as a vulnerable group. In addition, Front Line’s action also includes networking, training regarding security and managing risks and supporting access to the mechanisms of the UN and other bodies. Front Line works closely with UN agencies, institutions and the diverse range of civil society organisations involved in the protection of human rights.

For Front Line, a human rights defender is “a person who works, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. As such, it works on behalf of a very broad spectrum of human rights defenders, not only renowned human rights activists but also the many “frontline” human rights defenders working at the grassroots level across the world.

A closer look at Front Line’s achievements

Since its creation in 2001, Front Line has supported human rights defenders in over 100 countries through a highly responsive, fast and flexible program that includes protection, networking, training and supporting access to the mechanisms of the UN and other bodies.

1. Rapid Response

Front Line has taken up over 600 cases of human rights defenders at immediate risk. Front Line’s support has extended to over 100 countries through direct interventions, international advocacy and grant support. In some severe cases Front Line has also facilitated the temporary relocation of human rights defenders in immediate danger.

2. Small Grants Program

To date the organisation has disbursed over € 300,000 in grant support to more than 200 human rights defenders in need of medical, legal and security assistance.

3. Training & Security

Front Line works with human rights defenders to deliver regional & international training in personal security, risk assessment and IT security. In 2006, the foundation conducted training in security in Guatemala, India, Zimbabwe, Yemen, Belarus, the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Jordan for human rights defenders from Syria and Iraq. Front Line also works with women human rights defenders to address the specific risks they face.

4. Reports on Human Rights Defenders at Risk

Front Line publishes detailed reports of the situation of human rights defenders at risk. To date, it has published reports on the situation of human rights defenders in Brazil, Central Asia,  Guatemala, Indonesia, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the USA.

5. Dublin Platform

Every two years Front Line hosts a meeting for 100 human rights defenders. There they share experiences and learn from each other, build contacts and networks, acquire new skills and engage with additional participants drawn from NGOs and inter-governmental organizations such as the UN, the EU, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

6. International Advocacy

Front Line has successfully lobbied the Irish Government to set up a pilot scheme that speedily provides temporary humanitarian visas for human rights defenders that are at immediate risk. The foundation also played a key role in the adoption of EU Guidelines for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders during the Irish Presidency in 2004. Front Line has established an EU office in Brussels to press for more effective implementation of these Guidelines.

7. Front Line Internships & Fellowships

Front Line developed a number of internship and fellowship opportunities. Examples are the Frank Jennings Internship, which provides practical support to the office of the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, the Front Line Internship to the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the Front Line Peking Intern Programme, organised in collaboration with Peking University.

Front Line Defenders

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