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Funding for human rights

Global FundingHuman rights work depends on the voluntary efforts and goodwill of activists, concerned citizens, and government personnel. Big transformative ideas, however, also need an organizational infrastructure, and that infrastructure requires resources to thrive. How do human rights groups around the world mobilize the money and other inputs they need? What impacts do these methods have on the work of human rights organizations, and on their relations with governments, the general public, and others? Read on...

How to pay for legal empowerment: alternative structures and sources

Taking a hybrid approach to legal funding recognizes that different issues require different types of funding. EspañolFrançais


The old world of civic participation is being replaced

Traditional politicians and traditional CSOs are part of an old world that is being replaced by very different forms of civic participation.  Español


To preserve human rights, organizational models must change

The current human rights business model is not keeping up with trends in technology, philanthropy, business and society that could improve global results. EspañolFrançais


Fast and flexible support: ingredients to enrich LGBTI campaigning

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to campaigning for today’s LGBTI activists, but providing support on short notice allows organisations to be reactive and flexible.


Small grants can make big impacts

Building a culture of philanthropy in the global South is a herculean task, but small grants can still make big changes. Português


Fighting misconceptions and logistics to raise funds in Brazil

Logistical issues and lack of awareness among Brazilians have created significant—but not insurmountable—obstacles to fundraising for human rights. EspañolPortuguês


The end of the grant era

Asking donors for money and then implementing programs is an old model from which civil society must break free. Español


Local funding is not always the answer

In some countries, relying on local funding gives human rights defenders even less freedom.  Españolالعربية


Cross-movement organizing in Mexico leads to new resources

Feminists and environmentalists are coming together in Mexico to form new partnerships with an emphasis on local resource mobilization. Español


Local funding is not just an option anymore—it’s an imperative

As local rights groups seek alternative funding sources, the closing space for civil society makes this even more imperative.


Old dogs and new tricks: rethinking human rights business models

In this climate of closing space, we have an imperative to rethink the business models for protecting human rights. 


For Amnesty’s India office, raising local funds is all about membership

Amnesty International’s India hub focuses most of its fundraising efforts on domestic contributions, facing challenges as diverse as the weather to brand recognition. Españolالعربية


Building community around women’s rights: feminist philanthropy in Serbia

Becoming agents of change for women’s rights in Serbian society requires creativity in building connections and solidarity. Español


Rethinking progressive NGO funding in Israel

Marked as traitors by the dominant Right for relying on foreign aid, Israeli liberal NGOs need a wider base of local donors. Español


Sustainability through direct dialogue: a Latin American success story

Building a culture of giving in Latin America takes creativity, persistence and a willingness to invest in people. Español


Getting creative with local resource mobilization in Hong Kong

To get funding amidst intense non-profit competition in Hong Kong, human rights groups must get creative. Français


Insisting and resisting: women’s funds lead the way for local philanthropy

Women’s funds are gaining increasing recognition at the local and international levels as leading agents of social change. EspañolFrançais


Mongolia’s economic crisis: an end to corporate social responsibility?

Despite an economic crisis, some Mongolian companies still respond to carefully constructed funding requests.


Can celebrities and fashion magazines in Mexico really influence social change?

Partnering with celebrities and seeking visibility is key to mobilizing resources for the women’s movement in Mexico. Español


Crushing dissent: NGOs under threat in India

Can NGOs and India’s political opposition stop Modi’s civil society clampdown?


Government repression and bureaucratic hoops spell gloom for rights groups in Bangladesh

Amidst tighter donor budgets for human rights, NGOs in Bangladesh are also grappling with increasingly intrusive governments. বাংলা (Bengali)


Do-It-Yourself-Aid: alternative funding sources for rights work?

Is “Do-It-Yourself-Aid” the answer to funding rights work? Anne-Meike Fechter describes this model, its funding and related implications.


Disputes over foreign funding in Israel mask much deeper issues

If Israeli human rights groups are labeled fronts for foreign interests due to their funding, what does that make Israel itself? العربية  עברית


Modi government cracks down on green NGOs

India’s new Modi government trains its guns on environmental activists.


Beyond foreign funding – selling human rights in Africa

Human rights groups can survive in the current funding climate if they shift their focus towards locally driven funding resources. Español, Français


Focusing on women and transgenders in LGBT rights

Nepal is the most open country in South Asia for LGBT rights, but even here, patriarchal biases exclude women and transgenders. Can foreign funding change this? 


A tax on texting? Getting creative with funding human rights in Africa

For too long, the African Union and its human rights bodies have depended on foreign aid. If the Union implements a radical new financing tax on airline tickets, texts and hotel stays, however, its human rights work might finally become self-sufficient. Français


Pure hypocrisy: India’s fear of foreign funding for NGOs

The Indian state aggressively promotes foreign investment in all sectors but civil society.


In India, a pervasive paranoia blocks progress on human rights

NGOs working with untouchables and bonded labour face hostility from upper castes. For these groups, it’s nearly impossible to raise local funds. Without foreign funding, many would have to scale down their activities or face shutdown.


As the world’s eyes turn to Brazil, local rights groups must seize the day

The world is watching as Brazil prepares for the World Cup and Olympics. As Northern funding for Brazilian human rights groups declines, local groups must take advantage of this moment, and new philanthropic trends, to develop new sources of financial support. Português


The hypocrisy of foreign funding laws in Ethiopia

In the constantly shrinking space for civil society around the world, Ethiopia faces some enormous challenges in generating local support. Largely due to the country’s new CSO Proclamation, which severely restricts foreign funding of rights groups, human rights work in the country has nearly shut down. But can local donors pick up the slack?


American Jews, money and the Israel-Palestine conflict

Although the American Jewish community spends relatively little on human rights work in Israel/Palestine, they are getting serious about promoting a lasting peace in the region. العربية ,עברית


Turkey, the EU, and civil society: An incomplete revolution

Turkey’s campaign for EU membership has revolutionized funding for its civil society, but there is still a long way to go. Türkçe


Funding for human rights: the BRAC experience

Over four decades, BRAC has become one of the largest and most effective NGOs in the world, with outstanding success in incorporating human rights into its programs and resisting untoward donor pressure. For Southern actors looking for funding and programming within their own societies, the BRAC model is particularly instructive.


In for a bumpy ride: international aid and the closing space for domestic NGOs

The global pushback against domestic NGOs has arrived. International donors must learn to cope, but it won’t be easy. EspañolFrançaisالعربية


Kenyan rights groups under fire: are officials abusing the “Beijing Consensus”?

Kenyan officials under International Criminal Court indictment seek caps for foreign funding to local NGOs, raising the spectre of a “Beijing Consesus” for African civil society.


An alternative to international aid

Nora Lester Murad describes a new alternative to international aid and domestic charity for Palestine; community directed funds. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate, funding for human rights. Español עברית العربية


Exploring local possibilities for local rights

Designing and planning solutions to human rights problems from thousands of miles away often produces unsustainable results. The time has come for Southern human rights actors to find funding within their own societies. A contribution from Nigeria to the openGlobalRights debate on funding for human rights. Français


Brazil needs new public mechanisms and laws to fund human rights domestically

Human rights groups in the global South are dependent on international funds, but those monies are dwindling for NGOs in emerging economies such as Brazil. To survive, Brazilian public interest groups must lobby for an autonomous public funding mechanism as well as new laws to incentivize private giving. Português


Local funds for local issues: raising the bar

International aid is not ethically wrong, and local rights groups will use it for years to come. We must also mobilize domestic funds, however, by gaining a better understanding of our own policy, philanthropic, and economic environments. Français


To raise funds, Indian rights groups must emulate the country’s newest political party

Donations by ordinary citizens to India’s newest political party, the AAP, prove that Indians can and will donate to important causes. Indian rights groups can tap in to this generosity, but only if they satisfy the public’s demand for political change and good governance.


What's a funder to do?

If international funding compromises the work of domestic human rights groups, what should international donors do? It is admirable for local groups to refuse international aid on principle, but the ethical implications for global human rights funders are complex.


In defense of 'professional' human rights organizations

Human rights NGOs do not necessarily need to be grassroots social movements. But issues of dependence on foreign funding and corruption that accompany 'professionalization' are not unique to human rights organizations.العربية


No shortage of international complicity with Israeli occupation

Aid to Palestine is essentially palliative, intended to maintain a status quo. From that vantage point, aid seems to be remarkably complicit with continued Israeli occupation. How can funders and recipients break the cycle?


Funds and civil liberties

Dependence on institutional funding has depoliticized, monetized and corrupted much of the human rights work in India. While state-control of human rights funds is objectionable, rights movements will be durable and effective only when independent of big sponsors. A response to Ananth Guruswamy, Ravi Nair and James Ron and Archana Pandya. हिंदी.


Building a domestic human rights constituency in India

To fight the chilling effect created by new laws on foreign funding, Indian human rights NGOs need to develop support for funding among citizens. Though difficult, in the long run groups that have public legitimacy will be more difficult for governments to control and suppress.


Can corporate campaigners tap corporate largesse? Unlocking millions for human rights advocates

Human rights advocates are loathe to accept corporate funding, even in pursuit of worthy initiatives. But companies facing human rights challenges are eager for credible NGO guidance and ready to finance it. How can these corporate funds be tapped to support watchdogs without compromising their independence?


Human rights in Brazil: international funders must empower David against Goliath

Brazil’s recent economic growth – driven by multinational corporations and supported by the government – is a source of human rights violations and perpetuates social inequality. So why are human rights funders pulling out?


Anti-ngo legislation in Israel: a first step toward silencing dissent

Ultra-nationalist political parties are yet again trying to crack down on dissenting Israeli NGOs. This is the latest in a longer series of efforts to fundamentally re-define Israel as the “state of the Jews,” rather than a state of all its citizens.


In Kenya, averting a move to strangle civil society with the financial noose

In October Kenya introduced legislation capping foreign funding to NGOs and requiring that money be channeled through a government body. Though narrowly defeated, the law looked to be a death-knell for a vibrant civil society sector. But Kenya – and the region – is not out of the woods yet. Français


Turkey’s human rights groups in a funding squeeze

The government often accuses Turkey’s human rights groups of doing the work of “foreign powers,” which scares off local donors. But when rights groups seek foreign funding, they get attacked for taking “imperialist money.” Türkçe


From aid to investment: funding women's rights groups

A paradigm shift in funding from human rights toward 'investments' and 'business solutions' is threatening women’s rights organizing and the rights-based approach to development. We need greater understanding of these new trends and engagement with new players.


Rights-based approaches to development: from rights ‘talk’ to joint action

The rights based approach to development is increasingly popular, but more rights-based money isn’t the answer to the world’s ills. Rights-based practitioners will have to do a better job of evaluating their own efforts, helping local communities organize, and overcoming disincentives to collaboration.


Going local

The Indian government uses the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to block global support to NGOs that question the state. The FCRA must go, but meanwhile, civil society bodies must seek local support. A response to Ravi Nair and James Ron and Archana Pandya.


The state of global human rights philanthropy

Using the first-ever data-driven effort to track global human rights funding, representatives from two major global funding networks based in the U.S. and Mexico respond to James Ron on the current trends and opportunities of grants for human rights initiatives around the world. Español, العربيةPortuguês


Now is the time to invest in China’s nascent rights groups

Even as China grows in wealth, it has yet to fully develop a culture of philanthropy – one that is free and clear of government influence and able to effect real change in human rights. Large donors and Western organizations would do well to pay attention. 中国语文


Mismatch: why are human rights NGOs in emerging powers not emerging?

There is a perverse see-saw effect in place within the BRICS countries. In Brazil, as the government grows in prominence and companies become more global and voracious, human rights NGOs face a sustainability crisis and find their budgets shrinking. Are these two developments connected? PortuguêsEspañol


Will foreign funding last for those inside Israel who defend the Palestinians?

Israel’s human rights organisations depend on foreign funding to defend the rights of the Palestinians. But as the Middle East is increasingly torn by new conflicts, foreign funding may shift to wider regional and global rights issues. العربية ,עברית


In the Arab region, barriers abound to giving locally

It’s time for a paradigm shift in the Arab region, where local human rights groups are negatively perceived and donors still resist supporting right based initiatives. Españolالعربية, French


New directions in Southern human rights funding

Too few foundations support human rights in the Global South, and many of those northern funders who do support rights continue to make old mistakes. There are new players in unexpected places, however, who offer promising examples. EspañolFrançais, Português, العربية


Universal values, foreign money: local human rights organizations in the Global South

Despite enjoying a fair bit of local support, local human rights organizations (LHROs) in the Global South are still largely dependent on foreign funds. To better tap into local resource pools, LHROs will have to rethink their funding strategies, and perhaps reconsider some of their activities. Türkçe, Español, Português, Français, עברית ,العربية 


The challenge of finding funding for gay rights in Cameroon

When the EU awarded a large grant to Alice Nkom for her work defending gay people in Cameroon it was attacked for encouraging illegal activity. Here Nkom describes the reality of trying to find funds for rights work that the government – and most people in Cameroon  - deplore. Español, Françaisالعربية


Human rights funding in Brazil

Brazil’s economic success has led to foreign funders pulling the plug on human rights groups but a major education campaign is needed before Brazilian donors will take their place. Español, Portuguêsالعربية


Time to challenge India for its stranglehold on funding for rights organizations

One of the country’s most informed human rights experts explains how India blocks foreign funding for rights work it doesn’t like. Philanthropists avoid supporting work that will anger the state so the only organizations able to tackle the most sensitive rights issues are those funded by small contributions from ordinary citizens. हिंदीالعربية, Español.


Funding cannot stop rights abuses

The work of human rights organisations in the occupied Palestinian territories can never end abuses. Only a political solution that ends the Israeli occupation can do that. In the meantime, donors supporting Palestinian human rights work should reduce their bureaucratic demands.  ,العربيةTürkçe, Español


Human rights, democracy, and development: partners at last

The human rights movement, the democracy-promotion community, and development donors have common goals, but they have not always seen themselves as allies. It is quite possible that the three groupings have found more common ground around the concept of a “rights-based approach” to development. Français, العربية, Español.


Introducing this week's theme: Funding for human rights

Human rights work depends on the voluntary efforts of activists, concerned citizens, and government personnel. Big transformative ideas, however, also require organizational infrastructures, and these require resources to thrive.


All articles in date order:

Fast and flexible support: ingredients to enrich LGBTI campaigning

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to campaigning for today’s LGBTI activists, but providing support on short notice allows organisations to be reactive and flexible. A contribution to openGlobalRights’ funding for human rights debate.

Small grants can make big impacts

Building a culture of philanthropy in the global South is a herculean task, but small grants can still make big changes. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on funding and human rightsPortuguês

Fighting misconceptions and logistics to raise funds in Brazil

Logistical issues and lack of awareness among Brazilians have created significant—but not insurmountable—obstacles to fundraising for human rights. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on funding and human rightsEspañolPortuguês

The end of the grant era

Asking donors for money and then implementing programs is an old model from which civil society must break free. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on funding and human rights.  Español

Local funding is not always the answer

In some countries, relying on local funding gives human rights defenders even less freedom. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debates on funding for human rights and closing space for civil society.  Françaisالعربية

Cross-movement organizing in Mexico leads to new resources

Feminists and environmentalists are coming together in Mexico to form new partnerships with an emphasis on local resource mobilization. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on funding for human rights.  Español 

Local funding is not just an option anymore—it’s an imperative

As local rights groups seek alternative funding sources, the closing space for civil society makes this even more imperative. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debates on closing space for civil society and funding for human rights.

Old dogs and new tricks: rethinking human rights business models

In this climate of closing space, we have an imperative to rethink the business models for protecting human rights. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debates on closing space for civil society and funding for human rights.