RARE - Networking

Advocating for civic space and influencing policymakers at the European level

Pressing human rights issues on the ground often limit human rights defenders' time for advocacy and exchange with policy makers at EU level. In March 2022, the European Policy Centre and its Connecting Europe Program in Brussels hosted RARE camp 7, an intensive, three-day visit. The group engaged in advocacy and networking sessions with representatives of EU institutions, stakeholders from civil society and funders to promote their initiative and recommendations for an EU strategy for civil society. 

The networking camp in Brussels gave RARE participants the time and space to focus on a dimension of their work that is crucial for a general and sustainable improvement of the human rights situation in the EU as a whole: Advocacy for a stronger legal and political framework in the EU in which their work can flourish.

The organisations engaged in RARE launched a joint advocacy brief An EU Strategy for Civil Society: Recognition, Inclusion and Protection urging the European Commission to rethink and transform, how the EU connects with its citizens by:

  • facilitating policy and legislative change at the EU and national levels
  • providing consistent civil society access to policy debates and processes at the EU level
  • strengthening existing consultation mechanisms
  • providing access to sustainable funding.

“In Brussels the idea was for the participants to meet the EU institutions, such as the European Commission and the European Parliament, as well as a range of stakeholders from civil society, including funders.”

Sophie Pornschlegel
Connecting Europe Project Leader/Senior Policy Anlayst,
European Policy Centre

“If we want to achieve something, we need to influence policymakers at the European level. We need their support, and we want them to know what's happening on the ground.”

Dominika Spyratou
International Rescue Committee, Greece

RARE participants met with Members of the European Parliament Sergey Lagodinsky, Tineke Strik, Birgit Sippel, Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Damian Boeselager and colleagues from the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) to exchange insights on the protection of civic space and rule of law in the European Union.
There was also an opportunity to directly discuss the European Commission's strategies and action in this field in a meeting with the fundamental rights policy, rule of law and financial management teams at the European Commission DG Justice.

Different panel discussions facilitated an exchange between the RARE group and colleagues from other civil society organisations and networks on their visions for a better protection of civic space in Europe. Natacha Kazatchkine (Open Society Foundations) and Alexandrina Najmowicz (European Civic Forum) shared their assessment of civic space needs and opportunities at EU level while Marie Laure Muchery (Civitates) and Hanna Hanses (Philea - Philanthropy Europe Association) reported on how threats to civic space impact philanthropy.

Advocating and networking in Brussels

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In occasion of the launch of a joint policy brief for an EU strategy on civil society, the RARE group travelled to Brussels for exchanges with numerous stakeholders at the European level.


In view of the recent Russian aggression against Ukraine, the issues at the heart of the RARE initiative have reached a new level of urgency. Consequences of the war against Ukraine will likely shape the work of organisations engaged in RARE for many years to come. The question of what can be done to help the victims of the war in Ukraine was addressed in a special panel with Simon Papuashvili (International Partnership for Human Rights, IPHR), Josephine Liebl (European Council on Refugees and Exiles, ECRE) as well as Marie De Somer and Amanda Paul (European Policy Centre).


Ambassador Dr. Nikolaus Marschik received RARE at the Permanent Representation of Austria to the EU.

After 7 camps, the RARE group has grown together and created an extremely valuable network including some of the most impactful organisations across Europe, reflecting on how to shape EU policies for the years to come. 


“As we are nearing the end of this journey, we have come to Brussels to advocate together and to further the ideas we have formed. We will in the next camps continue to look at how we can build strong organisations together.”

Márta Pardavi,
RARE Course lead;Co-chair,
Hungarian Helsinki Committee