Human rights: the foundation of our society

Human rights are nothing less than the fundamental universal rights and freedoms to which we are all entitled – no matter who we are, what we do or where we live.

In Europe, they are protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and serve as the bedrock of our democratic society.

Our human rights include the right to remain free from discrimination on the basis of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, the right to the protection of your personal data, and the right to access justice. In short, they are what allows us to be who we are and what we are.

However, human rights are sometimes overlooked, abandoned or even violated, which can have serious consequences. To safeguard them, we must all learn to understand, respect and nurture them. That is why Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway support various projects through the EEA and Norway Grants, that promote and protect our fundamental rights. Here are three examples of projects that are making a difference. 

©️ Financial Mechanism Office

 

Home for Cooperation: building bridges between communities

One of the conditions for guaranteeing human rights is that people can live together in peace – even if they come from different communities. In practice, this can take some effort, like for instance, Cyprus, where the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities have been separated since 1974. In that year, the UN established a ‘neutral’ buffer zone in the capital Nicosia, and even today it takes several checkpoints to get from one side to the other.

To reunite them, the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) opened the Home for Cooperation (H4C), a community centre, right in the heart of the buffer zone. Hosting an extensive variety of cultural, artistic and educational programmes, it functions as a shared space for inter-communal cooperation and dialogue.

'The idea is that when people from different communities are given the opportunity to meet, share experiences, and work together, traumas can be healed and divisions can be set aside,' says Lefki Lambrou, Director of the Home for Cooperation.  'It is a place where true friendships are built, regardless of language barriers, religion and ethnicity.'

While many of the activities – like language lessons or salsa classes – are based within the home, more and more are taking place outside the neutral zone, and even outside Nicosia. As such, it has turned a zone of separation into an example of unity and cooperation. Learn more about Home for Cooperation at the project website, or read our full article about its history.

 

Campus pride: ensuring safety on campus

In certain situations, human rights are about respect and understanding, but sometimes it’s about acceptance. Take, for instance, MozaiQ, a community organisation in Romania. Their studies show that there’s a consistent presence of discrimination, affecting young people in general, and young people within the LGBTIQ community specifically. So they decided to develop new mechanisms to fight homophobia and transphobia – especially in educational institutions.

MozaiQ aims to ensure the safety, visibility and equality of all people in Romania, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics. Their project Campus Pride fights homophobia and transphobia and increases LGBTIQ acceptance in universities throughout the country.

These universities often have no procedures to combat discrimination based on sexual and gender orientation. This results in a lack of respect and exclusion in, for example, student housing our academic fund applications. In the absence of a representative student body, advocacy is limited to discourse, without concrete results.

With Campus Pride, MozaiQ empowers students to self-organise and join forces to drive the change. ‘This project has a great impact on the LGBTIQ community in Romania, because it offers LGBTIQ activists the know-how and the tools to advance their communities,’ says Vlad Viski, executive director of MozaiQ. ‘Doing so, we pave the way for future generations.

The project builds on the combined impact that everyone can have in their own environment: in their circle of friends, at home, school, college, work, and so on. This creates safe spaces, better policies, and helps monitor discrimination within the university grounds. Together, students are building a climate of acceptance.

Vlad: ‘The diversity of students participating in our project and in our activities is stunning and quite frankly extraordinary. Students from all walks of life decided to get involved, to come together in solidarity in order to improve the situation of LGBTIQ students.’

Want to learn more about this project? Visit the project website.

©️INTIME, by Fotini Kokkinaki

House2: Providing a home for those who need it most

While the organisation of Campus Pride helps students to be accepted for who they are, there’s a group of young people who need help to be where they are. Among the many refugees in Europe, there are thousands of unaccompanied minors who are fending for themselves. These children are very likely to have witnessed extreme violence and have often been victims of exploitation. They are among the most vulnerable and protecting them from the risks they face in refugee camps, by providing safe accommodation is the first requirement / a top priority.

The House2 project is one of the initiatives in Athens that offers long-term shelter for young refugees. They house twelve unaccompanied boys between 6 -12 years old, and two underage mothers with their children. ‘These are the most vulnerable among other vulnerable individuals,’ says Dimitra Adamantidou, Director of the Society for the care of minors and youth. Our main goal is to protect these youngsters, who are in a state of emergency – regardless of their origin, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.'

All children and adolescents are provided with housing, food and health care, social counselling, legal and psychological support and information. In addition, House2 offers vocational guidance and training, entertainment and sports, Greek lessons and support with school work. And, last but not least, House2 initiates and monitors procedures for family reunification.

‘We are running the shelter in the same way we are running our house: with care. You can see it in the furniture, the tiles, the walls.’ Says Eirini Chazapi, who is a project manager at House2. The project team consists of people with different educations and backgrounds, and we truly rely on their empathy, their problem solving, and their smiles.’

House2 is part of a housing network for underage refugees and has the ultimate goal to offer a new – second – home – to all young people who need the care. During its 85 years of operation, the organisation has hosted more than 2,500 boys aged 12-20, of various nationalities. Find more information on the website.

Civil society starts here

These projects are only a few examples of what we can achieve when we work together.  They’re supported by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, through the EEA and Norway Grants. Our work in 15 European countries unite us around the values we share: freedom, dignity, equality, human rights, democracy, and rule of law.

Do you want to know more about these and other civil society projects? Visit  eeagrants.org/civilsocietystartshere