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Working together for human rights

Henning Stirø, Director, EEA and Norway Grants - Financial Mechanism OfficeSun, 16 September 2018#RebuildingTrust

A vibrant civil society is a fundamental building block for safeguarding human rights. It plays a crucial role in securing citizens’ fundamental rights and giving voice to those that cannot speak for themselves.

Economic and political support for a strong civil society is ever more important at a time when we are witnessing a worrisome trend towards shrinking civic space in several European countries.

Fostering human rights is a key priority for Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants.

One of the ways we promote human rights and democratic principles is through strengthening civil society organisations to become active promoters of these values. Through our Active Citizens Fund we provide more than €200 million to the civil society sector in 15 EU Member States.

The aim of the Fund is to strengthen civil society and active citizenship and to empower vulnerable groups.

This is done through a wide range of activities spanning from strengthening the role of civil society organisations as advocates of human rights and increasing their watchdog capacity, to supporting civil society organisations that promote the rights of disadvantaged citizens and increase citizens’ involvement in policy and decision-making processes.

The support reflects Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway’s commitment to safeguarding fundamental European values and freedoms: human rights, democracy, equality and the rule of law, and the importance attached to civil society as a cornerstone of a fair and transparent democracy.

In the previous funding period more than 500 projects were supported in the fields of human rights, democracy and anti-discrimination.

The projects spanned a broad range of initiatives and issues, from protecting victims of hate speech and hate crime, to human rights education and advocacy as well as promoting transparency in government.

This support has been particularly effective in driving legal change to sustain or expand the rights of vulnerable groups. In total, 25 000 people benefited from human rights support financed by the EEA and Norway Grants.

An important priority has been to support the empowerment and inclusion of Roma communities, and addressing negative attitudes towards them.

Faced with rising human rights abuses and threats to freedom of speech, we work to enable civil society organisations to promote tolerance and combat discrimination and hate speech against minorities.

The EEA and Norway Grants is partnering with the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in a common effort to address the fundamental rights challenges that persist across Europe.

We support and look forward to the Fundamental Rights Forum and the opportunities it offers to increase dialogue about human rights in Europe. 

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