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About the NHC

The Netherlands Helsinki Committee is a non-governmental organization that promotes human rights and strengthens the rule of law and democracy, in particular in Europe. The NHC develops, seeks funding for and implements projects which in a practical and effective way build and strengthen the work of government institutions, NGOs and individual human rights defenders. In these projects, expertise from inside and outside the organization is used. Also, the NHC aims to influence the human rights policies of European governments and inter-governmental organizations, and to facilitate advocacy by its partner NGOs.

 

The NHC develops both short- and long-term projects aimed at strengthening legal protection and improving public policies that affect vulnerable or disadvantaged groups. Currently, the main projects the NHC is involved in concern improving the situation of detained persons (in Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Libya), increasing legal protection for victims of human trafficking (in Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia and Macedonia), and supporting human rights NGOs in resisting governmental pressure and in effectively influencing governmental policies (in Central Asia, Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union).  

 

Most of the advocacy work of the NHC is aimed at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The OSCE wants to ensure ‘comprehensive security’, encompassing politico-military, economic and environmental, and  human aspects. The NHC focuses on the human dimension of the work of the OSCE and of the policies of states that participate in the OSCE.

 

Alongside its traditional focus on the work of the OSCE, the NHC works towards improving the implementation of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights. We also strive to promote and encourage higher standards of human rights protection by the European Union in both its internal and external policies. OSCE-related issues are analysed and discussed in Security and Human Rights, a quarterly academic journal that also operates a weblog.

 

Moreover, the NHC takes part in various civil society networks, such as the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and the Civic Solidarity Platform. The NHC strives to stimulate discussion and awareness of developments concerning human rights by organizing symposia and debates concerning human rights.

 

The NHC works from an office in The Hague, with around ten staff members and five volunteers.

 

History

The NHC is one of a number of Helsinki groups that find their roots in the conclusion of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), signed in Helsinki in 1975 by 35 nations of the two Cold War blocs, as relations between East and West were gradually appeasing. In the 1990s, the Conference was converted into the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

 

Inspired by Principle VII of the Helsinki Act, by which the signatory States pledged to respect international human rights commitments, a number of dissidents and intellectuals founded the Moscow Helsinki Group in 1976, which played a crucial role in holding the USSR to its human rights obligations. Citizens outside the Soviet Union followed this example and set up similar watchdog organizations, or solidarity groups with the embattled activists in the Soviet bloc countries.

 

Among these initiatives, the Netherlands Helsinki Committee was founded in 1987, counting among its founders Max van der Stoel (Dutch diplomat, Minister of Foreign Affairs and later best known as first OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities), Peter Baehr (first director of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights at Utrecht University) and Arie Bloed (currently editor-in-chief of the  quarterly journal Security and Human Rights).

 

The NHC is increasingly seeking to cooperate with NGOs based in The Hague that work in the same field, in particular the Center for International Legal Cooperation (CILC) and the TMC Asser Institute.


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For over 25 years the NHC has committed itself to promoting and protecting human rights and the rule of law in Europe.

 

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