UN Human Rights Council: Belgium launches initiative to support human rights organizations in partner countries

Belgian minister of Development Cooperation Caroline Gennez (Vooruit) is establishing a new initiative to support human rights organisations in Belgian development cooperation partner countries. She announced this Wednesday during a United Nations Human Rights Council session in Geneva. Over the next two years, the Civic Space Fund, as the initiative is called, must allocate 8 million euros.

Belgian, local or international NGOs that are part of civil society and active in one of Belgium's partner countries can count on financial support to protect human rights defenders or safeguard civil and political liberties.

"The protection and promotion of democracy and human rights are and will remain a priority for Belgium," Gennez said. With the creation of the Civic Space Fund, Gennez wants to provide civil society organisations in those countries with the necessary support for their activities.

Conscious choice

"The Belgian development cooperation makes the conscious choice to be active in the least developed countries, where the need is greatest. However, regarding democracy and human rights, the challenges are also great."

In the areas where Belgium is active, corruption remains a persistent problem. "But that is no excuse to do nothing, on the contrary", Gennez stressed. "It is because of these difficult circumstances that we must continue to support civil society and give them space to do their work. They are a crucial link in the struggle for human rights and democracy and often the only ones on the ground with the necessary knowledge, experience and capacity to hold those in power accountable."

Priority countries

The initiative is open to the 14 partner countries of the Belgian development cooperation. Organisations operating in Burundi, Rwanda, Mali, Uganda, Guinea, Palestine, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burkina Faso will be given priority.

Currently, the Belgian development cooperation supports organisations such as DefendDefenders, an NGO in East Africa dedicated to protecting human rights defenders. Through the Ubuntu Cities Network, for example, they take activists who are intimidated or persecuted into protection by giving them temporary shelter in a neighbouring African country.


Minister for Development Cooperation and Metropolitan Policy Caroline Gennez pictured during a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday 01 March 2023.




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