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Protection and security for civil society activists at risk in Europe 

workshop for learning and strategizing

Warsaw, Poland
February 6-8, 2023


More about…

Context and goals

The last three years have brought new challenges and threats to human rights and civil society activists  in Europe. There is a growing demand for support and assistance to those who work under pressure and stress, exposed to verbal and physical attacks, hate speech and political harassment. Together with the Open Society Foundations and its partners, we want to invite you to Warsaw to engage in a discussion on the ways to build a support network for human rights and civil society organization activists  from Central and Eastern Europe and beyond.

The main goal of this workshop is to discuss lessons learned from the field on what works or what is needed to respond effectively to emerging political crisis, conflict or war in our region. We want to reflect together on  proactive protection strategies that build societal support for activism and increase the political price for harassment or attacks. Such good practices, we hope, are universal and could be effective also in other parts of the continent. Response to war in Ukraine is the spine of our event. However, we want to build our recommendations and lessons on broader experiences of the donors and CSO community, including protection work in Belarus, Brazil or South Africa.

Specific objectives of the workshop:

  •  identify new ways of supporting and protecting activism, including in exile, providing well-being and mental health support or spaces for learning and strategizing,
  • share experiences, ideas and learning on specific actions/projects that funders can individually or collectively adopt to protect and advance civic space,
  • formulate concrete best practices and recommendations for the field, including for protection groups, funders, networks of protection or advocacy campaigns.

Target Participants:

Participation in the workshop is per invitation only.
We aim to have maximum 80 participants, in order to create the right conditions for strategizing and co-creation.
  • Participants will be a balanced group of security and emergency assistance implementers, service providers and activists that lived through crisis as well as discrete number of donor organizations’ representatives. 
  • Priority will be given to participants for the region of Central and Eastern Europe, covering experience groups, from Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, other EU countries, and selected participants from outside of Europe.


The collaboration

This event is organized in close collaboration among the Stefan Batory Foundation, Warsaw, Poland, the International Renaissance Foundation, Kyiv, Ukraine, OSF Europe and Central Asia Program and OSF Global Programs (Berlin, London, New York).

To find out more about current activities of International Renaissance Foundation visit their official website: International Renaissance Foundation.
To find out more about OSF current activities visit their official website: Open Society Foundation.
To find out more about our current activities visit their official website: Stefan Batory Foundation or continue reading about the Foundation.
Organizer and host


Our voice matters


Step by step

Monday, February 6, 2023

Starting 12:30

Registration, lobby of Stefan Batory Foundation, ul. Sapieżyńska 10a




Welcoming address, introduction of the concept and the facilitating team

Ewa Kulik-Bielińska, Stefan Batory Foundation
Magda Majkowska-Tomkin, Open Society Foundations, Europe and Central Asia

14:30 – 15:30

Setting up the landscape of protection of human rights activism in Europe

This conversation will help us to identify the trends, new partnerships, old and new challenges, as well as possible ways forward for the field of protection of human rights activism and civic space in Europe.

Lida Vackova, Freedom House
Giada Negri, European Civic Forum
Liudmyla Yankina, ZMINA Human Rights Center

Chaired by: Inna Pidluska, International Renaissance Foundation


Coffee break

16:00 – 17:30

Civic space in exile in Europe

In this conversation, we will look closer into different aspects of support to activist while in relocation. The panelists will highlight different models, services and key issues related to coordination or funding.

Paul Gready, Center for Applied Human Rights, University of York
Aleksandra Iwanowska, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights Poland
Marcin de Kaminski, Civil Rights Defenders
Nadiia Ivanova, People in Need

Chaired by: Sasha Cherkasenko, Open Society Foundations Europe and Central Asia

17:30 – 19:00

Welcome reception (at the venue)

Toast from Ewa Kulik-Bielińska and Inna Pidluska

Tuesday, February 7, 2023


Welcome and summary of the first day

9:30 – 11:00

Activism and culture of care in Europe

This conversation will help us to unpack different levels and models of psychosocial support to activists and their organizations. We will talk about what it means to integrate wellbeing and culture of care into organizations. We will also talk about civil society dealing with burn out, trauma and secondary trauma.

Natalia Sarata, RegererAkcja
Jennifer Gaspar, Araminta
Aleksandra Delemenchuk, Tbilisi Shelter City
Sat Dharam Kaur, Compassionate Inquiry Inc.

Chaired by: Magda Adamowicz, Open Society Foundations Europe and Central Asia


Coffee break

11:30 – 13:00

Workshop: What do we need to support resilience, wellbeing and build infrastructure for protection?



14:00 – 15:30

Can we prepare for crisis? Learning from the past and looking forward

This discussion will help us to discuss proactive strategies that increase security, capacities and resources needed for being prepared and equipped for attacks on civic space.

Marta Pardavi, Hungarian Helsinki Committee
Mauricio Angel Morales, Protection International
Anastassiya Miller, PILnet
Aleksander Lapko, Belarusian Youth Hub

Chaired by: Ewa Kulik-Bielińska, Stefan Batory Foundation


Coffee break

16:00 – 17:30

Workshop: Future of protection of civic space and safe activism in Europe – looking forward

Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Welcome and summary of the past two days

9:45 – 11:00

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others – the power of networks, solidarity and civil society hubs

This conversation will zoom into networks as a tool for building connectedness, amplifying resources and solidarity among civil society activists and human rights defenders.

Elena Calistru, Funky Citizens
Daniela Fichino, Justicia Global
Constance Mukarati, Southern African Defenders
Simon Papuashvili, International Partnership for Human Rights

Chaired by: Masha Lisitsyna, Global Programs, Open Society Foundations


Coffee break

11:30 – 12:30

Workshop – top priorities – recommendations – prototypes


Closing remarks and final reflections

Ewa Kulik – Bielińska, Stefan Batory Foundation
Brian Kagoro, Global Programs, Open Society Foundations


Lunch and farewell

Under construction


Your input is critical!

We recommend: IN THE CROSSHAIRS. The authorities in Poland are attacking those without whom our country would have been unable to help Ukraine, October 2022

Report which documents PiS’s ( Law and Justice government in power in Poland since 2015) pressure on activists and how they are coping with this pressure.


Places to visit during your stay

If you have a moment to explore Warsaw, we created a mini guide: a list of attractions and a map.
We have described the main attractions on the route, which starts and ends at the Ibis Old Town hotel. You can reach everywhere on foot.
Have fun!