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Recharging Advocacy for Rights in Europe (RARE)

RARE - a joint initiative of the Hertie School, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the Netherlands Helsinki Committee

What is RARE?

Together with the Netherlands and Hungarian Helsinki Committees, the Hertie School is connecting 26 leading European human rights defenders in a two-years capacity- and alliance-building programme.
Recharging advocacy for Rights in Europe (RARE) will help form an embryonic ‘civic intervention force’ operating with a heightened understanding of cross-border spill-over effects and mobilising support throughout the entire European space to buttress resilience.

For all up-to-date information follow the RARE Twitter account.

Meet the people behind RARE

Learn more about our cohort of 26 outstanding Human Rights Defenders

Why do we need RARE?

If the European Union (EU) wants to remain a global champion of high democratic standards and human rights protection, it must also take action ‘at home’ within the union itself to protect and fortify defenders of the civic space in countries formerly considered safe havens for human rights work.

An understanding must take root that sees an attack on one civic organisation operating in one jurisdiction as a threat against all others too. National human rights NGOs need to broaden their portfolio and become active advocates vis à vis the governments and parliaments of other European countries as well as multilateral organisations.

How we will recharge adocacy for rights in Europe?

This initiative will bring solidarity and cooperation into practice. Over the course of nine camps in different European cities (see below) participants will be equipped with the skills, resources and the European network their organisations need to counteract increasingly challenging national operating contexts.

Moreover, the programme offers them a platform for networking, learning from one another and for collaboration on collective European projects. It enhances their organisations’ visibility in the international public sphere and at official (media-covered) occasions and opens up opportunities for joint advocacy campaigns and lobbying. HRDs will develop a joint strategic action plan throughout the duration of the project.

Meet our participants! Watch this video to hear why they decided to join RARE, and why it’s the right time for civil society organisations in Europe to grow strong bonds of solidarity and sharpen skills.

  • 22-23 March 2021

    This camp will serve to set the stage for the two-year-long programme and the joint advocacy strategy. It will allow all key programme stakeholders to meet, evaluate specific course needs and map potential actors and networks. Most importantly, the planning camp will be used to outline the joint strategic plan of action. Already in this first camp, participating organisations will  begin to identify potential areas for collaborative advocacy. This will include mapping two-to-three years of potential activities and identifying key European capitals where they should be focused.

  • 10-12 May 2021

    Strategy and thought processes accompanying its formation are often neglected in the day-to-day operations of many HRD organisations. This camp provides participating HRDs with the time and practical guidance needed to effectively hone their strategic thinking skills and their organisations’ action strategies. Participants will work together to co-design collaborative strategies for strengthening their inter-organisational solidarity and overall impact. Practical perspectives will be conveyed through high-level meetings with, for example, the German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid and the German Chancellery.
    The camp will also pay attention to the links between human rights, rule of law and democracy, the foundation on which the EU has been built. As part of this camp, the programme envisions a panel discussion with leading external experts hosted by the Hertie School’s Centre for Fundamental Rights

  • Berlin, 29 June-2 July 2021

    The work of HRDs is about imagining, advocating for and making change happen, but this has become increasingly challenging in complex or even restrictive political and social contexts. In this camp, participants will look at how to frame and deliver their messages on civic space and the rule of law in new and creative ways. They will start by examining their political contexts, the drivers of populism and move on to examining and experimenting with effective new ways to describe their values and visions of the future to various audiences.

  • The Hague, 20-23 September 2021

    This camp will forge stronger links and relations between RARE participants and the Council of Europe as well as the Netherlands, through exchanges with CoE units and Dutch stakeholders active in developing and implementing tools to protect the rule of law and human rights. Participants will take away practical insights on standards, policy and programme development in the Council of Europe and its units. Moreover, participants will meet Dutch parliamentarians, senior government officials, leading Dutch civic actors, academics and think tanks who share an interest in furthering the rule of law within the European Union and ties with human rights defenders. The camp will also offer an opportunity to launch discussions about the joint project in RARE and solicit views and support for it from CoE and Dutch counterparts..

  • Berlin, 27-28 October 2021

    Members of the RARE network join re:constitution fellows for an interactive exchange session about current challenges of working towards the protection of fundamental rights and civic spaces in both academia and practice.

  • Vienna, 9-11 November 2021

    In Vienna, the group will continue to meet potential allies: the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, OSCE/ODIHR as well as Austrian civil society actors with EU advocacy experience. Finding out about the mandate and activities of these organisation, RARE participants will inquire how their work can be fed into their work streams. The camp will also focus on producing a policy paper on civic space in the EU, which is part and parcel of a rounded communications strategy. If we want our arguments about the desirability of an EU civic space strategy to stick and if we want our arguments to influence policy (or to help give birth to a policy idea), we must learn how to communicate key messages as clearly as possible, also by writing longer briefs. As advocacy targets – primarily European Commission officials and MEPs – are busy and they receive too much information, the group will train how to write concisely and in a way devoid of jargon. The camp will discuss how to structure a policy paper, write an executive summary, tailor recommendations and present policy choices vis-à-vis policymakers.

  • Prague, 3 days, 17-20 January 2022

    The Prague camp will enable rule of law defenders to independently carry out high quality monitoring activities using open source monitoring techniques. It will  provide RARE participants with skills related to gathering, verifying and analysing videos and images, conducting comprehensive social media research and performing open source data collection and verification.

    The three-day training will include sessions on advanced web-searching techniques and verification principles, advanced social media research, geolocation and maps, and satellite resources.

  • Brussels, 3 days, March 2022

    Camp VII will focus on equipping participants with the deep networking skills they need to develop long-lasting connections that they can use to protect and empower their organisations, including by developing sustainable relationships with funders. Participants will see how to maximise the value of their network and will discuss how to balance various moral, ethical and strategic dilemmas in their activism.

    This will be complemented by a variety of pre-arranged meetings with NGO network members and NGO stakeholders located in Brussels. Envisioned visits include organisations such as: The Open Society European Policy Institute, European Policy Center – Connecting Europe Programme, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Brussels, as well as various EU member state representations and EU institutions, including visits to MEPs.

  • Budapest (TBC), 3 days, May 2022

    Strengthening the internal leadership of the participants’ organisations is essential for their long-term survival and success. Camp VIII will focus on how RARE participants can use personal leadership to protect and strengthen their organisations from within during times of change and crisis, but also how to inspire others to take similar action.

    The camp will also look at ways in which participants can use relevant advanced management tools and guide their organisations through periods of change. Taking place in Budapest (TBC), the programme will include discussions with think tanks such as the with CEU Democracy Institute and Political Capital.

  • Cres, 2 days, June 2022

    The closing camp will review progress on the joint strategic action plan and further develop plans for joint advocacy activities in respect to the collaborative project on expanding civic space within the European Union. It will also allow RARE participants to reflect on the broader achievements of their two year-long programme and recommend adjustments to the programme for the next RARE cohort.

This project is funded by:


Hungarian Helsinki Committee