Research project

Scottish Human Rights Defenders Fellowship

The Scottish Human Rights Defenders Fellowship was established in 2018 to support those at risk for their work in protecting human rights around the world

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Start date

May 2018

The fellowship offers three main benefits for the Fellows:

  1. Rest and respite from daily dangers and threats inherent in their work
  2. An opportunity for study, train and research to support their human rights work
  3. The opportunity to network with civil society organisations in Scotland and beyond, government officials in both Edinburgh and London (including the government ministers in Edinburgh and relevant country desk officers at the FCO in London), and other relevant individuals.

The Fellowship was an initiative of the Scottish Government and was developed in collaboration with the University of Dundee. A steering committee was set up to oversee and support the development of the Fellowship, including the human rights team of the Scottish Government, representatives from four civil society organisations – Amnesty International Scotland, Beyond Borders Scotland, Frontline Defenders (based in Dublin), and the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund – and academics from the Universities of Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and St. Andrews.

The four civil society organisations have drawn on their contacts around the world to identify potential candidates for the Fellowship, who are then chosen by the steering committee. Frequently individuals from the organisations will have worked closely with the nominees in their home countries in support of their human rights activities. These organisations are also intimately involved in various ways in supporting the Fellows once they arrive. The Fellowship has also established connection to a similar, longer-standing programme at the University of York, facilitating interaction between Fellows from the two universities, including joint training, research and networking opportunities and knowledge sharing. And, it has connected with international networks focused on supporting human rights defenders, academics at risk, and other democracy advocates.


At the Herald Higher Education Awards 2019, Professor Kurt Mills’ work on the Fellowship was recognised with the Outstanding Contribution from a Staff Member award. 

Former Fellows

Laura Miti, Executive Director for the Alliance of Community Action, Zambia

Laura Miti has been working with Zambian and South African civil society for more than 25 years, in various roles and initiatives to strengthen governance systems. She currently serves as Executive Director for the Alliance for Community Action (ACA), an organisation which works to mobilise demand for Public Resource Accountability amongst the Zambian public. Laura is passionate about how the choices made by those in power affect the poor, and has devoted her adult life to leading and participating in various campaigns to strengthen Zambia’s democracy.;

Laura previously worked for the Public Service Accountability Monitor, a research unit at Rhodes University in South Africa. She has also worked for Caritas Zambia where she established and coordinated the parliamentary liaison programme. Before joining civil society, she worked for the Parliament of Zambia and was a popular columnist for the Post in Zambia (since shut down by the government) the Sunday Times also in Zambia and the Daily Dispatch in South Africa.

Konstantin Baranov, International Advocacy Coordinator at the Youth Human Rights Movement, Russia

Konstantin Baranov has been working with human rights groups in Russia and other post-Soviet countries for more than 15 years, starting from local initiatives focusing on anti-racism and LGBTI rights in the city of Rostov-on-Don (south of Russia), and then increasingly at the national and international levels. He currently serves as member of the Coordinating Council and international advocacy coordinator at the Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM), an organisation which works to engage young people from post-Soviet countries in human rights activism and develop solidarity and cooperation between them. The main focus of Konstantin’s current work is on monitoring and advocacy for protecting and expanding civil society space, in particular, with regard to promoting freedom of association and protection of human rights defenders, as well as enhancing the involvement of civil society actors with international organisations.

Konstantin has also worked with a number of other Russian and international NGOs, including the Moscow Helsinki Group, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Human Rights Watch. Additionally, he manages the work of the Center for Solidarity International based in Vilnius, Lithuania, which assists human rights and civil society groups from the post-Soviet area working in restrictive environments (such as Russia, Belarus and Crimea).


Project lead(s)

Professor Kurt Mills

Project team

Dr Harriet Fildes