World NGO day: The altruism of brave women, men and youth to the benefit of all


On World NGO Day, the EU celebrates the key role civil society organisations play in promoting and defending human rights and pays tribute to those who lost their lives for the rights of all

With EU funding, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) supports families like Aisha and Na’aem’s in accessing primary healthcare, including malnutrition screening and treatment. We also help volunteers raise awareness about COVID-19 in the camps.© Saleh Ba Hayan/IRC. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.


Today, many women, men and youth dedicate their time to defend and protect the rights of individuals and communities. They may be the ones on the ground, providing direct support to humans, animals or the environment, or the ones speaking up to expose abuses and advocating for those who often don’t have a voice. In many cases, it is only thanks to their commitment and their work that the most vulnerable have access to food, shelter, education or treatment, or have their human rights defended, or that endangered species and their habitat are protected.

Against the backdrop of increasing challenges due to the global pandemic, natural catastrophes or political events, the role of non-governmental organisations is more important than ever. They are frequently the ones in the first line and capable to assist and providing relief, as can be seen in the current Ukrainian crisis.

As the world witnesses the unjustified military aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation, the EU reinforces its solidarity with the women, men and children whose lives have been affected and will continue supporting the people of Ukraine, including through additional humanitarian support, together with its international partners. In this regard, EU High Representative Josep Borrell stated: ‘The EU stands firmly by the side of the Ukrainian and Russian people, its civil society and youth, whose future and voices are threatened by President Putin’s disregard of democracy, human rights and international rules’.

‘We are not just aware of your challenges, we are taking action’EU High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell

Facing such scenarios, the EU remains fully committed to supporting civil society organisations. This is why in December 2021, the EU launched a EUR 1.5 billion global programme to support civil society organisations. Moreover, the ‘Human Rights and Democracy’ thematic programme will dedicate over EUR 700 million to its top priority of protecting and empowering people, including human rights defenders, and countering shrinking civic space. Both programmes result from the EU’s main financial tool for sustainable development, peace and stability across the globe: Global Europe.

Since 2015, the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism,, supported 53 000 human rights defenders at risk and their families.

In 2021, the EU awarded more than47 emergency grants for digital security and protection measures - benefiting 130 HRDsOver 850 local NGO workers received security set up and training

A continuous dialogue with non-governmental organisations is of utmost importance for the EU. Last year, the EU hosted the 23rd EU-NGO Human Rights Forum. This Forum provides an essential platform to discuss recommendations on how the EU can further protect civic space worldwide and promote a rights-based recovery. It is also a unique opportunity to strengthen cooperation between EU and NGOs.

In his opening speech, EU High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell had the chance to address NGOs and stressed: ‘We are not just aware of your challenges, we are taking action’. Josep Borrell recognised the courage of Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa, activists Germain Rukuki and Franklin Castañeda, and called for the liberation of Zhang Zhan. His intervention highlighted the importance of supporting human rights defenders and civil society organisations, through the adoption of sanctions to generate change and provision of resources to support their work.

The engagement with civil society organisations has not stopped during the pandemic. The EU has continued holding its dialogue through virtual consultations with civil society, in particular human rights NGOs and human rights defenders. This engagement is essential to keep accurate information about where and which human rights violations occur, as well as to point out vulnerabilities omitted by local authorities.

The actions of women and men, young and old, whether big or small, have an impact to the benefit of a greater good. Today, like every day, the EU supports their work, commitment and dedication.

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