Front Line Strategic Plan 2011 -2014

Several thousand years ago Sun Tzu set down a concept which has been repeated in the handbooks of oppressors right up to the present day:

'Kill one, terrify a thousand.'

Front Line seeks to do the opposite.

'Protect one, empower a thousand.'

Human rights defenders are often the key agents of change within society. They are at risk because they touch on powerful interests when they promote social justice and human rights for all. The repression against them is a measure of their potential effectiveness. Protecting human rights defenders and expanding the space for civil society to work in is a crucial element in any strategy which seeks to promote good governance, peace, development or human rights.


  1. increased repression of human rights defenders, including killings, disappearances, imprisonment, arbitrary detention, torture;
  2. a strategic approach by many repressive Governments to increase legal restrictions (NGO laws, registration) and control foreign funding and international links;
  3. continues efforts to defame, denigrate, marginalise and de-legitimise human rights defenders;
  4. increased use of spurious prosecutions of HRD on criminal or civil charges;
  5. increased violent attacks on defenders of Economic, Social and Cultural rights;
  6. increased attacks from non-state actors including armed groups, fundamentalist religious or political groups, criminal gangs and businesses;
  7. increased requests and demands on Front Line from HRDs at risk;
  8. the difficulty of sustaining attention on long-term cases;
  9. weaker UN and other international mechanisms for protection as a result of a regional bloc or west v the rest political dynamic;
  10. the economic crisis and a consequently difficult funding environment.

HRDs have particularly highlighted:

  1. the importance of increased Front Line field presence and supportive accompaniment;
  2. the need for more campaigning;
  3. the importance of supporting strengthened legitimacy and visibility for human rights defenders;
  4. the importance of also addressing issues related to stress and burn-out as well as the needs of the families of HRDs;
  5. the need to develop alternative strategies to relocation where possible and/or to support a process that facilitates sustained work and return;
  6. the need for further efforts to promote stronger implementation of the EU Guidelines;
  7. the need to build capacity of HRDs;
  8. the importance of focusing on particularly vulnerable groups including LGBTI, women human rights defenders and those working in rural areas.

Strategic Objectives:

  1. Provide rapid, practical and effective support to human rights defenders at risk:
  2. 1.1 Provide fast, flexible and effective 24 hour emergency response that contributes to the protection of HRD at immediate risk.
    1.1.1 Maintain and develop research contacts with HRD and others
    1.1.2 Increase focus on particularly vulnerable groups including isolated hrds/ working in rural areas, indigenous rights, sexual rights, ESC rights
    1.1.3 Sustain and develop 24/7 emergency response system.
    1.1.4 Develop capacity to deploy trial observers or short term accompaniment.
    1.1.5 Maintain emergency relocation capacity (including humanitarian visas)
    1.1.6 Explore alternative strategies to relocation including support in-country.

    1.2 Provide practical support that contributes to strengthening HRD capacities to manage security.
    1.2.1 Maintain and deepen the training/ security management program with more focus on follow-up and behavioural change of HRD.
    1.2.2 Explore opportunities for distance learning opportunities on security to be made available to HRDs.
    1.2.3 Develop resources and promote awareness of well-being and stress management techniques for HRD and their families.
    1.2.4 Provide grants for security and protection.
    1.2.5 Develop Fellowship opportunities which enable individual HRD to develop their capacities and contribute to protection of HRD.
    1.2.6 Sustain and develop the Front Line ID cards.
    1.2.7 Sustain regular communications with HRD in several languages.
    1.3 Support networking and exchange between HRD on the subject of security and protection.

  3. Enhance the visibility of human rights defenders and the recognition of the legitimate work that they undertake:
  4. 2.1 Maintain and develop the new Front Line website and explore new social networking tools.
    2.2 Promote media coverage of HRD and their role as key agents of change and Front Line's work to protect them in Ireland and in their own countries.
    2.3 Maintain the Dublin Platform.
    2.4 Sustain and develop the Front Line Award for HRD at risk.
    2.5 Develop campaigning on long-term cases of HRDs.
    2.6 Give personal recognition to every HRD that Front Line works with.
    2.7 Identify a partner to explore the possibility of HRD focussed radio programmes on a pilot basis.

  5. Strengthen international protection of human rights defenders at risk.
  6. 3.1 Support the strengthening of international mechanisms for the protection of HRD.
    3.1.1 Promote the visibility and implementation of the UN Declaration on HRD.
    3.2.2 Support the strengthening and visibility of the role of the UN Special Rapporteur on HRD.
    3.1.3 Promote access of HRD to UN mechanisms ( UPR, HRC).
    3.1.4 Promote strengthened regional mechanisms for the protection of HRD and lobby for their effectiveness / implementation.
    3.1.5 Promote stronger implementation of the EU Guidelines on the Protection of HRD.
    3.2 Support the strengthening of the international constituency of support for the protection of HRD.
    3.2.1 Engage non-EU governments to take responsibility for security and protection of HRD.
    3.2.2 Develop capacity to engage and influence perpetrators and non-state actors.
    3.2.3 Stimulate discourse on the crucial role of HRD with key opinion formers at international level.

  7. Further develop Front Line as an effective and sustainable organization that retains agility and innovation in responding to the needs expressed by HRD.
  8. 4.1 Sustain and develop the staffing, management and operational systems of the organisation, including digital and information security.
    4.2 Develop regional presence with expansion of field-based model.
    4.3 Sustain and develop organisational infrastructure, management and communication systems.
    4.4 Sustain and develop the size, scope and diversity of Front Line's funding base.
    4.5 Support effective functioning of governance structures.
    4.6 Further develop diverse and multilingual staff.
    4.7 Integrate risk analysis systematically into planning of all missions and other field based activities.

Crosscutting themes:

  1. Ensure Front Line is driven by the aspirations and needs expressed by human rights defenders themselves.
  2. Ensure that Front Line responds and is present in a real way when HRD are most at risk.
  3. Ensure Front Line works equally for men and women human rights defenders, seeks to address the specific challenges faced by women human rights defenders because of their gender, and gives particular attention to threats faced by human rights defenders working for economic, social and cultural rights, for sexual identity rights and for indigenous peoples rights.
  4. Develop Front Line as an Irish based international organization which reflects its internationalism in the geographic reach of our activities, the diversity of our staff,our commitment to multilingualism and the international breadth of our support network.
  5. Front Line will continue to play a facilitating/catalytic role in bringing together human rights defenders, decision makers and those with specific areas of expertise to promote innovative approaches to strengthening protection.

Measures of success:

The negative political context in which we are working makes efforts to protect human rights defenders more urgent but offers slim prospects that they will be less at risk in four years time.

Front Line will be effective if:

  1. The human rights defenders Front Line works with have a greater capacity to manage the risks that they face;
  2. International mechanisms to protect human rights defenders are more effective;
  3. There is a measurable positive improvement in at least 35% of the cases of human rights defenders at risk that Front Line takes up;
  4. Front Line is positioned as the leading organisation in the protection of Human Rights Defenders at Irish, EU, regional and global level;