Support in challenging times: Annual report 2017

Norwegian Human Rights Fund 's annual report is out. Watch executive director Sandra Petersen comment the highlights of 2017 as well as the plans and opportunities for 2018 - the year of the human rights defenders.

Flexible and bold support

30 years ago the Norwegian Human Rights Fund (NHRF) was established as a tool to give flexible, non-bureaucratic and bold support to frontline human rights defenders and their work for marginalised and vulnerable groups. At the end of 2018 we will celebrate three decades of commitment and collaboration between different civil society actors in Norway. In 2017, the NHRF supported local human rights organisations in 16 countries on three continents. In NHRF's annual report for 2017, we highlight some of the grantee organisations’ achievements and work over the past year. 

Negative narrative

Many of the human rights defenders that NHRF supports are subject to high levels of risk and work under extremely challenging circumstances. We are alarmed by the situation in many of the countries where we give support. The situation in Colombia and Honduras is particularly difficult when it comes to the outright killing of human rights defenders. In other countries human rights defenders are facing bureaucratic hurdles, threats, surveillance, stigmatisation, reprisals, and smear campaigns.

There exists a negative narrative against human rights defenders in many countries. Governments are questioning their legitimacy and are branding them as anti-nationals and as working against development. To counter this trend, the NHRF has embarked on an ambitious and innovative project with Memria.org called IDefendRigths to record voices of human rights defenders worldwide and provide a platform where they can share their stories.

Year of celebration

This is a year of celebration for human rights: It marks the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The latter highlights the right to conduct human rights work individually or in association with others; to form associations and non-governmental organisations; and to solicit, receive and utilise resources for the purpose of protecting human rights. It sounds simple, yet still we are living in a time where the concept of human rights itself is being challenged.

In spite of this, we are inspired to see the persistent, hard work of local human rights groups that stand firm to protect the rights of others and to ensure that no-one is left behind when it comes to accessing their rights. This year we will praise them! We will pay tribute to the Human Rights Defenders and the passion, the strength and the civic conscience that we observe in our grantees in the frontline of the human rights movement! We will use the NHRF’s 30th anniversary to highlight the positive impact human rights defenders and organisations have on their communities and societies. 

2018 is the year of the Human Rights Defenders. We look forward to raise our banner high and celebrate our commitment to human rights defenders in the frontline – in spite of challenging times!

Kathrine Fauske, Chair of the Board of the NHRF
Sandra Petersen, Executive Director of the NHRF