Shelter City Utrecht, believing that change is achievable



March 12, 2024

Written by the team at Shelter City Utrecht.

Together with other organizations in Utrecht, PBI Netherlands has coordinated Shelter City Utrecht for 9 years. Here, the PBI Netherlands team share their reflections on what the experience has been like to support human rights defenders at risk in the city of Utrecht.

Reflecting on our journey of the past 9 years at Shelter City Utrecht, one thing stands out: the remarkable stories of the human rights defenders we’ve had the honor to host. From Venezuela to Kenya, and Poland to South Sudan, our doors have been open to defenders from around the globe, each working on different human rights topics.

We’ve captured some of these compelling stories in short documentaries, offering a glimpse into the lives and struggles of these courageous individuals. Watch them here!

Yet, our journey hasn’t been without its challenges. For some defenders, their very presence in the Netherlands poses a risk to their safety. Ensuring their anonymity and security is paramount, which is why we’ve taken innovative approaches, like the animated video created by Linda van Bruggen for Andrew Michael (pseudonym) from South Sudan.

Why do we do it?

Because defending human rights is non-negotiable. These defenders deserve our respect for their commitment to justice and the recognition of fundamental rights. Providing them with a safe haven to rest and recharge is the least we can do. This year, we’ve expanded our capacity from hosting 3 defenders to 4, and we aspire to welcome even more in the future.

Shelter City Utrecht represents more than just a temporary residence. It’s a beacon of hope, solidarity, and the belief that change is achievable. We are grateful to our dedicated volunteers at PBI Netherlands, who tirelessly work to ensure the comfort of our guests and amplify their voices through organized events across the country. We’re also very grateful to our partners, including the Municipality of Utrecht, the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) of Utrecht University, and Justice and Peace, for making Shelter City Utrecht possible and the great cooperation.

Here’s to many more years of Shelter City Utrecht and the vital work it embodies!

Part of the team at Shelter City Utrecht
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