The two organisations working for human rights in Belgium, one from each side of the language divide, are to join forces and work together after being separated for 42 years, the two organisations have announced.
At the same time, they have launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for a new joint headquarters in a renovated school in Molenbeek in Brussels.
The Human Rights League was created in Belgium in 1901, on the initiative of a professor from the Free University of Brussels (ULB) and inspired by a French organisation created three years earlier.
It was dissolved during the First World War, and emerged again after as the Belgian League for the Defense of Human and Civil Rights, only to disappear again during the Nazi occupation.
After emerging once again in 1954, the organisation split into two in 1978, into Flemish and French counterparts, the Liga voor Mensenrechten and the Ligue des droits humains.
Now the two organisations are to move in together, in more of a cohabitation than a marriage: the language split persists in the new organisation, named Maison des droits humains/Huis van de mensenrechten.
“In January this year we decided to purchase a building in Brussels. It will become the symbolic place for the universality of human rights in Belgium,” explained Kati Verstrepen, president of the Flemish league.
“The building will house both the Liga and La Ligue. But we can also accommodate defenders of human rights, train volunteers and organise events for the general public,” she said.
The two partners will take over an abandoned school in the Brussels commune of Molenbeek, which will offer private offices, common spaces for the two groups to work together, and in the future accommodation for other rights groups.
But first, they have to raise the funds to complete the project, and the crowdfunding is well on its way. With a deadline of 5 October to raise €1.3 million, at the time of writing the counter was standing at €1,248,243 – just over €51,000 short of the target.