Preparing the next generation of human rights defenders
Since the emergence of human rights activism decades ago, activist groups have fought fierce battles in the name of easing and putting an end to rights violations across the globe. Today, around 80 years on, many efforts, projects, and programmes have indeed succeeded in enhancing the situation of human rights in certain communities. However, the vast majority of these communities remain vulnerable to falling back into the abyss—i.e. returning to their previous status—given the temporary nature of these projects.
Most projects and programmes do not leave a long-term impact because their main focus is on the “what” rather than the “who”, which means that members of target groups are usually recipients of support, rather than involved in the process of supporting their own rights and the rights of their communities. Focusing mainly on designing and launching temporary support projects therefore generates results that are not sustainable, as the efficacy of this type of relief operation will eventually wane, and can even engender negative consequences for target groups by keeping them helpless and in need of continuous outside support.
Part of the solution is finding the groups where the support provided will be effective as well as sustainable. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, young people aged under 30 constitute more than half the population at 55 percent. However, they remain one of the groups most affected by armed conflicts and humanitarian crises, and face compounding challenges on the political, social, and economic levels. According to the World Bank, the youth unemployment rate in the MENA region is estimated at 26 percent, exceeding that of any other region in the world.
About the project
The Youth for Rights Fellowship is a Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor project that champions the organisation’s core values and strategy of turning its target groups from passive recipients of support into active defenders of human rights in their communities.
The four-month programme is implemented twice a year and selects at least 40 young people (between 21–29 years of age) living in the MENA region. The programme aims to enhance youth understanding of human rights and helps them to gain the skills necessary to advocate for and defend their own and their communities’ rights, plus equips them with the needed experience and network to obtain job opportunities at human rights organisations.
Selected participants are enrolled in a two-month intensive training programme on international law and human rights advocacy, followed by another two months of practical internship at an international, regional, or local human rights organisation. The programme aims to give interns the skills necessary to defend human rights in various fields, including field research, documentation of human rights violations, producing detailed reports, designing and launching effective lobbying and advocacy campaigns, and using the media to raise awareness of rights violations.
During the initial two-month period of the programme, each new member receives intensive training through virtual and in-person workshops and is coached by a personal mentor assigned to follow up with each member individually to prepare them for the next two-month period, during which the project links them with human rights organisations to receive hands-on training. During this period, each member will move between different departments of their assigned organisation, depending on academic background, experience, and personal interests. By the end of their internship period, each intern will produce a report addressing a human rights issue in the MENA region.
At the end of the programme, the intern becomes a member of the vibrant Euro-Med Monitor community. With over 1,000 members around the world, the community encourages continued communication between members, and provides necessary support as needed by offering job recommendations, encouragement to carry on with humanitarian work, and by nominating some former interns for jobs within the organisation or its partner organisations.
The project targets three main direct and indirect groups, as defined below.
- Youth (university graduates of various majors) originally from the MENA region, living in the region or abroad.
- Human rights organisations operating in the MENA region and Europe and focusing mainly on defending and supporting the rights of youth and marginalised communities in the MENA region.
- Communities in which the targeted youth live.
To be eligible for the Youth for Rights Fellowship, applicants must:
- Be between 21–29 years of age.
- Hold a bachelor’s degree in human rights, international law, international relations, English language, media, public relations, or any other relevant field.
- Be currently unemployed.
- Be a citizen of a fellowship-eligible country or territory (Middle East and North Africa - MENA region).
- Have excellent command of both Arabic and English (spoken and written).
- Have good computer skills.
- Have a solid background in human rights and international law.
- Commit to attending all training sessions, meetings, and lectures (in person for members in Lebanon and online for those abroad).
- Commit to completing a two-month internship at a partner organisation, and performing all tasks and activities related to the fellowship.
Following the completion of the theoretical learning phase on international humanitarian law, documenting violations, and drafting human rights reports, the fellows are to begin the second phase of the training programme. This stage will include practical training in one of the international, regional, or local partner human rights organisations.
For two months, the fellows will work with their supervisors to document any violations in their countries of residence and will conclude their participation in the fellowship programme by producing human rights reports that address various issues. Each member is directed during the report writing process by a special supervisor appointed by the organisation where the member receives his/her practical training. Euro-Med Monitor does not, in most cases, supervise the preparation of these reports, review them, or audit the information contained therein.
Reports of the first cohort – 2023
- The Right to Work for Persons with Disabilities in Lebanon – Salma al-Samman, SKI for Research and Consulting
- Protecting Journalists in the Arab World – Haneen al-Awawdeh and Amal Taamallah, Maharat Foundation – Lebanon
- Universal Periodic Review - Yemen – Nawar Al Haj and Mohammed Arnaout, Journalist Support Committee (JSC)
- The Impact of the Economic and Monetary Crisis on Human Rights in Lebanon – Pascal Khodeir, Daraj