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PRESS RELEASE: DefendDefenders/AfricanDefenders and Justice and Peace Netherlands Unite to Strengthen Human Rights Defender Protection Globally

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE [10 October 2023]

[The Hague, Netherlands]- In a momentous step towards the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) in Africa, DefendDefenders/AfricanDefenders is delighted to announce the formalization of a crucial collaboration with Justice and Peace Netherlands. Today, our esteemed Chairperson and Executive Director of DefendDefenders, Hassan Shire, inked a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) alongside Sebastiaan van der Zwaan, the Executive Director of Justice and Peace Netherlands, solidifying a partnership that is set to reshape the landscape of HRD protection.

The MoU establishes a robust framework for joint initiatives within the Ubuntu Hub Cities and Shelter City initiatives, focusing on shared areas of interest critical to HRD protection. This collaboration goes beyond mere geographic confines, emphasizing complementarity and synergy to strengthen support for HRDs globally. By consolidating expertise, resources, and networks, our collective goal is to cultivate a more supportive and effective environment for those bravely defending human rights on the front lines.

Hassan Shire, expressed his enthusiasm about this collaboration, stating, “As early as the 1940s, Uganda was host to hundreds of Polish refugees fleeing World War II, who later bequeathed one of the properties that housed them (Athina Club) in the heart of Kampala, to become DefendDefenders’ first “Safe House” for Human Rights Defenders in Africa in 2005.”

Speaking to the need for collaboration and synergy Hassan Shire added :

“I strongly believe in the protection of HRDs, there is no competition, rather complementary and effective collaboration. I am glad that this effective collaboration is taking now the form of a more systematic and symbiotic relationship”

This collaboration signifies a stride forward in the collective endeavor to support and protect human rights defenders, and cross-pollinating expertise, especially those facing risks in Africa and beyond.

 Sebastiaan van der Zwaan noted: “What we hope to show by signing and putting our ambitions to work in the next two days is that we can take the next steps towards a truly global web of safe spaces and are open for an exchange to learn from each other’s experience and collaborate as Shelter Cities and Ubuntu Hub Cities. We hope to take the first steps to exchange best practices and how collaboration can give us the opportunity to do more for human rights defenders.”

 Both organizations are steadfastly committed to the belief that, while challenges may be formidable, the power of collaboration transcends them all, creating a seamless path towards a safer and more just world.

For media inquiries or further information, please contact:

Hassan Shire: [email protected]

Joseph Bikanda: [email protected]

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