External consultants have evaluated the Foundation’s actions in support of defenders and associations in the region. The main results are presented below.
Evaluation of the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism, ProtectDefenders.eu, March 2020
The evaluation reviewed the first 37 months from October 2015 to October 2018 of the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism, ProtectDefenders.eu. EMHRF is one of the 12 partner NGOs that implement the mechanism. As part of the evaluation, country case studies were produced for Colombia, the Philippines and Syria. EMHRF is the only partner in the consortium with a specific focus on the Southern Mediterranean region, which includes Syria.
“The consortium partners’ range of expertise (thematic and geographic) was a significant factor in the success of the mechanism. Their networks and connections to HRDs on the ground maximised the mechanism’s reach. The mechanism responded to a number of crisis situations – for example, in Syria – where it provided a unique resource for HRDs. In these contexts, verification was difficult and time-consuming, and errors politically risky. Despite these challenges, ProtectDefenders.eu [EMHRF in this case] was able to exercise a high degree of due diligence due to the partners’ extensive networks and insight into developments on the ground.”
“Before receiving the [EMHRF] grant, a Syrian-led initiative aimed at supporting survivors of detention in Syria was struggling to survive on short-term grants. They “didn’t have any options” as a newly formed organisation; “there were a lot of restrictions [on funding] because no one wanted to work in Syria or work on detention in Syria because it was political.” The director explained the importance of the grant and what they were able to accomplish as a result of it: “In the first phase, 7-8 months, we couldn’t do anything – just paperwork and supporting survivors in Turkey. In the year we had the grant, we expanded to Syria, expanded to have a gender focal point, and managed to start curating and expanding our network of survivors… [The grant] helped us survive for a year, and we grew enough that we got a grant for 3 years. Without this grant, we would not have survived. The grant gave us legitimacy.”
External Evaluation Report, 2009-2012: Supporting Human Rights Defenders: Analyzing Short Term Results, Executive Summary, June 2013
The objective of the evaluation, commissioned by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was to assess the performance and the relevance of the actions and orientations of EMHRF during the period 2009-2012.
In particular, the evaluation noted that “the Foundation has expanded its work in terms of the number of human rights defenders supported and the overall funding allocated. The political changes that occurred in the Southern Mediterranean countries has shown that a very small Foundation, such as EMHRF is very capable of responding quickly to changing political situation. The Foundation is able to respond rapidly to financial needs which may arise for human rights defenders and it is able to accompany emerging human rights defenders and their organizations in their aim to mobilize international support, seek funding from mainstream donors and make alliances with local NGOs who have similar goals and aims. EMHRF has become an eminent player in the region because of its trustworthiness and extensive human rights knowledge about the region.”
The global objective of the evaluation was to provide the European Commission with an assessment of the quality of the actions financed under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) in support of human rights defenders from October 2008 to February 2010, with recommendations on how to improve this support to better respond to future needs for protection of human rights defenders.
EIDHR supported 11 projects in this period. EMHRF managed one of these projects, namely the 36-month (2009-2011) “Supporting and reinforcing the capacities of human rights defenders in the Euro-Mediterranean region”.
The results of the evaluation were positive for EMHRF, among others. The final report considered EMHRF’s activities to be: “A well-designed and balanced project, in a high-risk and complex region, with a strong emphasis placed on direct assistance to defenders, and practical assistance aimed at ensuring organizational survival and capacity. The project provides a vital and unique regional presence, and is able to act where other donors are more limited. The strategic relevance of this project [the activities of EMHRF] for the EU, and its practical relevance to defenders and CSOs [civil society organisations] are without question. Most of the activities and funding grants are oriented directly towards protecting and supporting defenders, with a strong emphasis on qualitative follow-up of cases which makes the Project among the most effective and best targeted”.
External Evaluation of EMHRF, 2005-2008, Executive Summary, December 2009
The purpose of this evaluation – the first external evaluation of EMHRF’s actions – was to give insight into the work of EMHRF and to provide accountability to donors. EMHRF had been founded in 2004.
The evaluation found that “EMHRF is uniquely in place to provide grants to human rights defenders and human rights organisations in the Middle East and North Africa, because it is well informed about the human rights situation in the region and the consequences for human rights defenders.”
“Grantees have responded very positively about the impact the grants have had on their work. They claim that their immediate risk has diminished in the case of urgent funding and that their visibility and activities have increased through non-urgent funding. With regard to the sustainability of the grant giving, grantees claim that they have gained organisational skills and increased capacity to engage in human rights work.”
“EMHRF has developed a very credible grant giving Foundation for human rights defenders in the region because of the contact it keeps with the grantees and of the nonfinancial support that the secretariat provides to many grantees during the application and granting procedure. The evaluators consider this contact as a type of capacity building for the grantees. The evaluation has further shown that short-term funding in time and quantity can make a difference in alleviating risks for human rights defenders.”