New ProtectDefenders.eu study reveals urgent need for increased funding and support for human rights defenders


In the study “The landscape of international public funding for human rights defenders”, published today, ProtectDefenders.eu sheds light on the critical challenges faced by human rights defenders aroRead moreund the world, with a specific focus on their funding by public actors. LGBTI and feminist movements often work without a broad support network and visibility: financial support must better reach out to human rights defenders on the ground and “hard to reach”, and really take into account their needs. Read less


[Brussels, 11 June 2024] – In the study The Landscape of Public International Funding for Human Rights Defenders, released today, ProtectDefenders.eu sheds light on the critical challenges faced by human rights defenders (HRDs) worldwide, specifically focusing on their financing by public actors.

The research, which combines an analysis of financial data over a period of four years with interviews, investigations, and input from defenders, underscores the pressing need for greater financial support and resources to safeguard the invaluable work of human rights defenders in promoting and protecting human rights globally.

The ProtectDefenders.eu study reveals and documents a concerning trend: while the need for support for HRDs has never been greater, funding levels have stagnated, with only marginal increases observed over the examined period. Despite rhetoric emphasising the importance of prioritising human rights prioritisation, the actual allocation of resources has failed to keep pace with the deteriorating global situation, representing a mere 0.11% of total Official Development Assistance (ODA) annually.

Key findings from the study include:

  • Disparity in funding: While some donors have demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting HRDs, others have allocated minimal resources, with wide variations observed among donor contributions. This disparity is also evident among different groups of defenders and thematic areas, as well as in funding dynamics by region, with a concerning decrease in attention to the MENA region
  • Challenges in accessing funds: HRDs continue to face obstacles in accessing international funds, including restrictive funding requirements and bureaucratic hurdles
  • Need for core funding: There is a critical need for core, flexible, and sustainable funding to enable HRDs to effectively carry out their vital work
  • Lack in localisation efforts: The study emphasises the importance of localising HRD protection programs and ensuring that funding reaches grassroots organisations and movements.

“This research underscores the urgent need for action to better support human rights defenders and is a call to action for donors, policymakers, and stakeholders to stand in solidarity with human rights defenders,” said Gerald Staberock, Chair of the Board of ProtectDefenders.eu and Secretary-General of the World Organisation against Torture. “HRDs play a vital role in advancing human rights and democracy worldwide, yet they continue to face increasing risks and challenges. It is imperative that donors and stakeholders heed the recommendations outlined in this study to ensure that HRDs receive the support they need to carry out their crucial work.”

“LGBTI and feminist movements are often working without a broad support network or visibility. Now more than ever, when our communities are bearing the brunt of a growing anti-rights pushback, funding support must better reach grassroots and ‘hard to reach’ human rights defenders, and truly take their needs into account.”

Julia Ehrt, Executive Director at ILGA World

In response to these findings, the study presents a series of detailed recommendations aimed at addressing the funding gap and improving support for HRDs. These recommendations include increasing overall funding levels, reducing restrictions on grants, enhancing political and diplomatic support, and investing in donors’ own capacities to better understand the needs and contexts of HRDs.

ProtectDefenders.eu issues a clear call to all donors and public actors to urgently address this situation. Specifically, the demands include:

  1. Increase in public funding: Advocating for an increase in public funding for HRDs from 0.11% to 0.5% for the period 2025-2028.
  2. Building trust through core grants: Urging for more core grants with reduced restrictions, audits, lower result expectations, and extended support horizons.
  3. Directing more grants locally: Advocating for a higher proportion of grants to be allocated to local NGOs to ensure funding reaches grassroots organizations and movements.
  4. Establishment of HRD principles for regranting: Calling upon the community of donors and financiers of HRD work to establish HRD Principles for Regranting, outlining guidelines for more effective and equitable distribution of funds.

The full report, along with its recommendations, can be accessed here.


ProtectDefenders.eu is the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism, led by a Consortium of 12 international NGOs active in the field of human rights. It aims to support HRDs in high-risk situations through financial assistance, advocacy, and capacity-building.

The Global Philanthropy Project and ILGA World have recently launched LGBTI Pathways – a groundbreaking project undertaking a comprehensive gap analysis on the state of global funding to LGBTI issues. Learn more at lgbtipathways.org