Changemakers Program in Strasbourg

September 8, 2022

The Changemakers Program

Has been selected for World Forum for Democracy 2022

The World Forum for Democracy (WFD) is a platform for global dialogue and democratic participation which brings new ideas into the work of the Council of Europe and promotes its principles across the world. The 10th World Forum for Democracy will debate the issues and generate new ideas for tackling the decline of democracy we face today. The intention is to get to the heart of what has gone wrong. (World Forum for Democracy 2022 – Democracy: A New Hope ?).

“It will look for the key contributing factors to democratic decline, consider how these might be addressed, and explore what kind of democratic future is desirable, and possible, in the interests of people across the world” (WFD).

Earlier this year the WFD held a global call for NGOs to submit their proposals to combat democratic backsliding. From over 400 applications, the Changemakers Program by The Hague Peace Projects (HPP) has been selected to present their initiative to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, in November this year.

Changemakers in Strasbourg

Changemakers are the brave individuals who have made it their life’s work to fight for humanity. They are society’s influencers who stand for positive change and push for peace in communities around the world. They are our journalists, our activists, our human rights defenders… our victims… They are our democratic actors that defend democracy every day by practising it, and they are a key voice in civil society that cannot be missed.

“Thirty years ago, many people believed that the spread of democracy was as inevitable as it was desirable. Those days are now far behind us. Instead, the public and policy-makers have watched as the spread of democracy has slowed and, by some measures, gone into reverse. Those who believe that democracy is the best way to govern – and those who do not – know that democracy is in distress. Many wonder if it will survive” (WFD).

Supporting the good work that is already being done

At the HPP we recognize Changemakers as an invaluable source of information for peacebuilding and human rights. We see them as our most powerful catalysts for democratic values and positive change.

Changemakers represent society’s grassroot intervention in the fight for democratic preservation, and are of critical importance in instilling democratic change in the world through a peaceful and bottom-up approach.

The Changemakers Program is the umbrella term for a series of holistic support services that have evolved over many years of collaboration with human rights defenders at The Hague Peace Projects. These services are tailor-made to address the main barriers that Changemakers experience in their everyday human rights work and to sustain their efforts in championing human rights and combatting a shrinking space for civil society.

As such, the Changemakers Program supports influential changemakers around the world who represent a real step towards peace and positive change in their communities. In essence, we encourage and sustain the grassroot efforts of social leaders by supporting the good work that is already being done.

Our goal is to strengthen the role of civil society as a means for HRDs to influence social change and exercise their democratic rights in the face of rising authoritarianism.

Support that Works

The Changemakers Program provides the following support modules that are designed for and by human rights defenders themselves:

(1) Universal basic income support to provide a minimal financial security net and contribute to the basic needs and safety of program beneficiaries.

(2) Trainings providing tools and skills for Changemakers to safely and effectively pursue their human rights work.

(3) Community building to grow valuable connections and strengthen human rights communities, while enabling Changemakers to better navigate civil society and its institutions.

(4) Emotional support to address the often over-looked component of the traumatic experiences of many of our participants, and connection to professional help when needed.

These tried and tested services make a significant impact on the sustainability of what some might call ‘the most important but worst paid job’ – being a Changemaker.

Photo by Marcus Spiske

The Council of Europe

Presenting the Changemakers initiative infront of the Council of Europe is a huge opportunity to address key actors and policy-makers in Europe.

It is a chance to tell the story of Changemakers and their essential role in sustaining and preserving a healthy democracy to the ears of the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Conference of INGOs.

The Changemakers Program distinguishes with its holistic support approach which allows it to address multiple needs that would otherwise require a complex collection of funds. It also supplements the income of its beneficiaries with a stipend to alleviate one of the most tenacious obstacles for sustainable human rights work, financial insecurity.

Our initiative embraces the need to “work differently to end need”, which entails respecting and strengthening local leadership and capacity, rather than replacing them.

It represents an effort to redirect global capital to where it is needed and realistically address a persistent shortcoming of a global market economy that struggles to reward human rights activities.

The Changemakers Program will be presented at the Forum Lab 9 on Protection for Activists and Human Rights Defenders on Tuesday 8 November, 2022.

Click here for more information about the Changemakers Program.

Click here for more information about WFD 2022.

Supporters of The Changemakers Program

We would like to thank the Haëlla Stichting for their support of The Changemakers Program. Without the generous support and investment in positive change by organisations such as these, our work would not be possible.

By Steen Bentall

Together we can Make Change!



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