Rightly so…

York Celebrates 10 years of Human Rights

It’s been ten years since the University launched the Centre for Applied Human Rights, aiming to enhance the sustainability of social activism and support defenders from around the world. Now as the city has become a designated human rights city, we look back at what has been achieved and what the future holds…

Since 2008 over 70 Defenders from around the world have come to York as the Centre continues its mission to enhance the sustainability of social activism.

Human Rights Defenders and staff outside the centre, Spring 2017

The idea of the Protective Fellowship Scheme is not only to support individual Human Rights Defenders, but also indirectly the communities they work with. During their time in York, Defenders focus on human rights research, attend both practical and theory-based human rights training, and conduct advocacy and networking. This time in York is also a period away from an intensely challenging and often dangerous working environment, and thereby an opportunity to re-energise and gather strength for the continued fight for a more just world.

Monica Paulus (Fellow 2015-16, Papua New Guinea) reflects on the impact of her time in York: “Since the Fellowship I have set up the Simbu Human Rights Defenders Network, and I have almost 50 network partners in the organisation. I’ve gone on to do bigger things since the Fellowship. The J A Clark Award for Women’s Empowerment which I received from York was the basis of what the organisation is now. It was really the Award that made us come together and work together.”

Similarly, Dina Meza (Fellow 2013, Honduras) talks of the difference the Fellowship has made to her: “The Protective Fellowship scheme is so important. It helps Human Rights Defenders under threat. It has radically transformed my life and my thinking, and has given me renewed hope.” Dina’s continued work for freedom of expression and protection of journalists and other vulnerable groups in Honduras has been enabled by funding from a donor she met during her time in the UK.

When the scheme was launched in 2008, it was a unique, university-based support scheme for Human Rights Defenders at risk. Ten years on, other institutions and organisations are keen to learn from York’s experience of supporting Defenders at risk, including universities in Scotland and Thailand.

Alumni and friends generously fund up to 10 Protective Fellowship Scheme places each year. The scheme is also supported by the FIDDH, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Alan and Babette Sainsbury Charitable Fund, the J A Clark Charitable Trust, the Evan Cornish Foundation, YuFund and the University of York.

It is thanks to this support that we can celebrate the Centre’s 10th Anniversary. We hope you will join us on 24 January 2018 to mark the occasion.

celebrates its 10th Anniversary

Paul Gready, Director of the Centre of Applied Human Rights, reflects on ten years of human rights at York as the city also celebrates becoming a Human Rights City.

Ten years ago, those of us who work at the Centre for Applied Human Rights were determined to create something different and exciting at the University of York. 

Paul Gready, Director of the Centre of Applied Human Rights

Ten years on, and we can confidently say that we have. The Centre is genuinely interdisciplinary, and we have a deep commitment to providing practical outcomes in some of the world’s most challenging environments, while also contributing to key debates, concepts and ideas in the field of human rights. We are locally rooted in York, but we have a global reach.

I am particularly proud of three areas of work. First, the support we provide for Human Rights Defenders at risk around the world, notably through our Protective Fellowship Scheme. Second, our leadership of a 5-year campaign which led to York declaring itself the UK’s first Human Rights City in April 2017. And third, the huge range of art work which we have produced, proving that human rights must be creative, imaginative and disruptive.

I would personally like to thank those of you who have supported us in our first decade. We hope you will continue to support us into our second.”


To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR), there will be a series of events from
24 to 27 January 2018, beginning on the evening of 24 January with a major public event, hosted by the Vice-Chancellor.

Speakers will include Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and Jestina Mukoko, a Zimbabwean Human Rights Defender and former Fellow at CAHR, who will be talking about the memoir she wrote while at York. You can find out more about Jestina and her experience overleaf.

To discover more and to express your interest in this event, which is open to both donors and graduates, visit here.


As the Centre for Applied Human
Rights celebrates its 10th Anniversary, York has declared itself the UK’s first Human Rights City.

York: Human Rights City will be working with a diverse set of local partners, including the University, to deliver this vision. The declaration was the culmination of six years’ work, and represents an innovative attempt to aid the wider community by championing a broad-based partnership approach to social change.

The status means businesses, residents and organisations, including the Council and police, are expected to refer to human rights in everyday activities and policies.

York, like many cities, has a distinctive ‘personality’. One way of beginning a new kind of conversation about human rights is to link human rights to the identity, institutions and culture of a city. Each Human Rights City has built on its own particular history when seeking to give local content to the label. In both the past and present York has a strong record of activity in the field of social justice. This exciting development represents the next chapter in our human rights story.