Application deadline:

15 September 2021

Human rights defenders play an essential role in the realisation of rights and promotion of equality. Not only do they fight for human rights in situations of oppression and abuse, they also act as monitors, drawing attention both to their respective communities and to the international community to otherwise neglected violations and threats.

They assist victims in claiming their rights and contribute to holding those in power accountable, thereby combatting cultures of impunity, which serve to cloak systematic and repeated breaches of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Furthermore, by linking the local level to the global and the global to the local, human rights defenders contribute to sustaining a circle of empowerment at all levels.

Whether acting individually or as part of an organised group, human rights defenders are often the target of reprisals and may themselves be subject to human rights violations. Because their work is in many contexts systematically hampered, there is an increasing understanding within the international community of the importance of safeguarding and facilitating human rights defenders at national, regional and international level.

Why choose this course?

During the training programme, participants will be able to:

  • Develop human rights defenders’ advocacy skills and expertise
  • Enhance the ability of human rights defenders to engage strategically with UN mechanisms and examining how they can use them to bolster their work at the national level
  • Develop diplomatic and civil society networks
  • Share knowledge and expertise which human rights defenders can use to ensure their voice is central in international human rights decision-making processes
  • Develop strategies and techniques to increase the potential of human rights defenders’ national and regional advocacy work
  • Discuss best practices and ways forward through the mutual exchange of experiences
  • Develop networks among Sakharov fellows and other human rights defenders

Key Facts


Course dates From 16 to 23 October 2021
Application deadline 15 September 2021
Location Monastery of San Nicolò, Venice Lido
Format In presence, unless COVID-19 restrictions require an online format
Language requirements Fluency in English (written and spoken)
Tuition fee € 1342,00 (VAT included)
Financial support Please note that the Global Campus of Human Rights does not offer scholarship at this point in time
Certificate Upon completion of the course

Rationale and objectives



Learning objectives

By taking this course, you’ll be able to:

  • Explore today’s challenges in the field of human rights or other topical issues, and allow participants to examine their causes and possible solutions
  • Meet operational requirements and identify processes and means of transferring academic and institutional expertise into the public sphere
  • Professionalise and maximise the impact of the work of human rights defenders
  • Strengthen individual and institutional knowledge and skills at the national and regional levels
  • Strengthen the capacity of human rights defenders particularly in fragile states

Target audience

The training programme is addressed to human rights practitioners from all over the world as well as to graduate students from all academic backgrounds willing to deepen and improve their knowledge in human rights topics.

Structure and content



Course dates: 16 – 23 October 2021

Class composition: Participants will be part of a class of around 30 participants which will include other selected human rights defenders and learners benefitting from each other’s professional expertise and practical experience. The participants’ learning experience and interaction in a smaller group will be thus enhanced and help creating a conducive environment for shared reflection, reasoning and understanding.

Core themes:

  • Engaging with UN mechanisms: treaty bodies and special procedures
  • Introduction to gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence
  • Environmental protection and indigenous rights
  • LGBTIQ+ rights
  • Security challenges of digital documentation
  • Documenting and raising awareness of human rights abuses through video evidence
  • Raising funds and strategically selecting projects
  • Providing ethical guidelines and interviewing techniques




The Global Campus encourages a blended formula of in person and remote teaching, ensuring an environmentally friendly approach to international travels. The programme will include lectures by Sakharov laureates, Right Livelihood Foundation laureates, prominent human rights figures from international organisations, internationally renowned academics, experts and activists from civil society and NGOs. Lectures will be either in presence at the Global Campus headquarters in Venice Lido, or remotely through Zoom connections upon availability of the speakers.

Social events such as a guided tour of an historical landmark or museum in Venice and a welcome aperitif will be offered to enhance engagement and take advantage of the cultural environment of Venice.




In the morning participants will attend the plenary thematic sessions while in the afternoon skill-building seminars addressing cross-cutting issues will be taught by experts and NGOs representatives.

The methodology includes practical information on proven techniques for performing professional tasks as well as participatory training techniques, such as role plays, group works, case studies and brainstorming, which encourage peer learning and lead to better knowledge retention.

Online teaching techniques will also be a valid support in case restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic should jeopardise an in-presence event.




The training programme is organised by the Global Campus of Human Rights Project Department in cooperation with the European Parliament and it hosts the 2021 selected Sakharov Fellows.

Since 2016 the European Parliament's Sakharov Fellowship Programme offers up to 14 human rights defenders selected from non-EU countries the opportunity to follow a two week intensive training in Brussels and at the Global Campus of Human Rights in Venice. Under the Sakharov Fellowship training programme human rights defenders will enhance their knowledge of EU and international human rights frameworks, policies and mechanisms and develop capacities to advocate for and effect positive change to protect human rights.