July 15, 2020
Shelter City continues supporting human rights defenders during the pandemic
We at Shelter City have released a joint statement in English, in Spanish and in French on the state of human rights and of human rights defenders during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and on our work to support them.
The impact of the pandemic on human rights
The pandemic has compromised the public health and safety of many people and it has also worsened the injustices and inequalities already present. For instance, the access of LGBTIQ+ people to medicines and treatments has been further restricted due to the priority given to the treatment of COVID-19.
Many governments worlwide have used the COVID-19 restrictions to justify increased surveillance, limitations on the freedom of movement, assembly, association, expression and opinion.
Moreover, some journalists and academics who published reports on the pandemic that differed from the official government’s narrative, have faced threats, imprisonment or disappearence.
The impact of the pandemic on human rights defenders
Due to the lockdowns enforced in many countries, human rights defenders were not able to continue their human rights work in the same way. The impossibility to do their job also had negative effects on their financial situation and their access to basic human needs.
Human rights defenders had to move their communication and work online. This has exposed them to increased risks of online surveillance and harassement. It has also had an impact on their psychological and physical wellbeing and opportunity to connect with allies.
Moreover, women human rights defenders and LGBTIQ+ human rights defenders have faced additional challenges as they are stuck at home and more vulnerable to domestic violence or abuse.
Supporting human rights defenders during the pandemic
We at Shelter City continue keeping in contact with human rights defenders, monitoring their situation and creating alternative ways to support their human rights work.
We had to cancel the arrival of many human rights defenders to Shelter City. They were not able to travel or the local restrictions would have not guaranteed them the safety and the opportunities we instead intend to offer.
However, we have successfully adapted our support to the new circumstances. We moved our capacity building trainings online and tailored them to the current situation, for instance offering trainings on holistic security, online security, wellbeing and stress management. Moreover, together with our partners, we succeded in finding alternative options of relocation for human rights defenders at risk.
We hope to be soon able to provide again human rights defenders with the oppotunity to relocate to Shelter City, re-energize, receive tailormade support and engage with allies.