The Defend the Defenders Program or the Program for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights Defenders Working on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is a funding mechanism for activities that seek to protect the country's defenders of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) against threatened or actual abuses and rights violations that they encounter in relation to their advocacy work. The Defend the Defenders Program supports local strategies for the protection of human rights defenders who become vulnerable to violence, harassment, threats, and actual rights violations, because of their advocacy for ESCR. The program focuses on preventive measures, i.e., those that protect human rights defenders against violence, harassment, threats, or actual abuses, instead of measures that seek to hold accountable the persons or groups responsible for violence, harassment, threats, or abuses that had been committed.
The initial phase of the Defend the Defenders Program was launched in December 2009 as a partnership between the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the ALG. As administrator of the Program, the Alternative Law Groups (ALG) holds the funds, receives and processes proposals for funding support, disburses funds for approved proposals, and monitors project implementation and funds usage.
Recognizing the significant contribution of this innovative program to supporting local strategies for the protection of human rights defenders, the program was re-launched in 2014, with support from the Royal Norwegian Embassy, through the KarapatansaMalikhaingParaan (KaSaMa), an inter-embassy and multi-stakeholder human rights initiative. The program focused on funding support prioritizing women human rights defenders.