Presentation of the Marianne Initiative

"Being a human rights defender is not a choice, but my identity."

Vanja Pavlovic , Bosnian winner of the Class of 2024 - April 15, 2024

On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, which commemorates the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in an international environment that is increasingly threatening these rights, the President of the Republic has called for the implementation of a new initiative aimed at strengthening France's action in favour of their defenders, both abroad and in France.

The Marianne initiative for human rights defenders was launched on 10 December 2021 at the Elysée Palace, in the presence of all the partners who contributed to it: the State, associations and NGOs, foundations, local authorities and other actors invested in this vital cause for democracy.

Our mission: to support human rights defenders in their struggle

Launched in December 2021 by French President Emmanuel Macron, the Marianne Initiative for Human Rights Defenders aims to support the work of human rights defenders, both in their countries of origin, through its international component, and by hosting them in France for six months, through its national component.

The Marianne association oversees implementation of the national program, in coordination with the Délégation interministérielle à l'accueil et à l'intégration des réfugiés and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Founded on common values of hospitality, exchange and sharing, the program aims to bring together and combine the skills of all those committed to human rights.

Our actions: a personalized program to strengthen skills

Each year, a group of around 15 human rights defenders who have distinguished themselves by their exemplary efforts to protect fundamental rights in their countries of origin are welcomed to France. The winners are selected from several hundred candidates by a committee of independent experts.

After welcoming its first all-female class in 2022 and a mixed class in 2023, the program will welcome a third mixed class in 2024.

The winners come from every continent and are involved in a wide range of struggles: civil and political rights; women's, children's and LGBTQIA+ rights; minority rights; and environmental rights, among others.

Hosted and supported by a grant, they follow a six-month program of support and training, enabling them to build their capacities, share their experiences, raise the profile of their struggles and develop new networks and projects. It also provides a breathing space for men and women who often face pressure or threats in their home countries as part of their militant struggle.

The customized program includes contacts with key players in the human rights field (government, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, independent judicial and administrative authorities, representatives of international organizations), as well as support for the development of their activist project, aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of their action.

Recipients complete a comprehensive program consisting of:

  • Training to build cross-disciplinary skills to implement their projects: negotiation, leadership, advocacy, project engineering, association management, etc. ;
  • Training to improve working conditions in the country of origin: safety, protection mechanisms for human rights defenders, etc. ... ;
  • Courses to consolidate their theoretical knowledge: transitional justice, international law, etc. ;
  • Meetings and contacts with key figures and partner organizations involved in human rights and development issues;
  • Conferences and cultural activities;
  • Individual interviews to support the militant project;
  • Visits to international institutions and organizations;
  • Exchanges with the program's Marianne Alumni network, as part of the mentoring program between laureates from different classes.

The international aspect of the initiative: supporting human rights defenders in their own countries

The Marianne Initiative is also part of France's human rights diplomacy around the world.

With the support of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, its French diplomatic network, the Agence française de développement (AFD), the NGO Agir ensemble pour les droits humains and the "Plateforme des droits de l'Homme", the international component provides support outside France for rights defenders, including former Marianne winners, national and international civil society organizations and institutional players involved in promoting and defending human rights.

The aim is to support them in their fight by strengthening their capacity for action, and to protect them by increasing their visibility.

Our ambition: to build a community of human rights defenders around the world

This program helps create lasting bonds of solidarity through :

  • The creation of links within each graduating class and between successive classes, with the creation of the Marianne Alumni network;
  • Exchanges, networking and partnerships between prizewinners and human rights players in France;
  • Synergies with European and international programs and the development of links with the human rights defenders they support.

By supporting human rights defenders, this Initiative reflects France's ambition to promote and protect fundamental freedoms and universal, inalienable rights around the world, through human rights defenders.


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