Where the Money Goes in Human Rights

grantsWhere does the money go in human rights grantmaking? In 2010, funders invested $1.2 billion dollars in over 6,800 organizations whose activities addressed access to justice and freedom from violence to environmental, labor, sexual and reproductive rights.

That’s according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Foundation Center and the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG). Advancing Human Rights: The State of Global Foundation Grantmaking is big on data — you can see which issues got funded, what populations received support, and who the funders are.

“It’s the first clear, condensed portrait of global human rights foundation funding,” says Christen Dobson, program director at IHRFG, who worked on the report since 2009. Dobson says they plan to update the data annually, eventually creating interactive tools that NGOs, member organizations, and the general public can access online.

Dobson says the current report is a key resource for human rights activists and groups. “They can use it to better understand where funding in their issue is, and leverage that information for additional support. It’s very helpful to get a sense of what funders are thinking.”

Women’s and girl’s rights emerged as a chief focus for funders, something that surprised Lucia Scherer, program officer with the International Network of Women’s Funds (INWF), a partner in creating the report.

“We weren’t expecting see women’s funds among the top donors because amounts are so small compared to what funders give to other issues,” she says.

Support for individual liberty and security topped the issues list, while environmental and resource rights got the least amount of funders’ dollars.

How Can We Advance Human Rights?

The importance of messaging is a key take-away from the report.

“It’s not so easy to fundraise for many of these issues and it raises the whole question around packaging messages in a way that gets through,” says Scherer. “How you get to this mass of people who are or aren’t going to be interested in your project depends on how you sell it.”

Advancing Human Rights includes successful case studies as well as input from funders about where human rights is headed.

Negative public perception, making strategic and positive collaborations among organizations, and finding a way to frame human rights in an accessible way were some of the factors funders identified as driving the field.

Scherer believes positive results will come from working together. “The more of us there are, the more powerful we are, and the more individuals become interested in your cause, the more critical mass it will become, and the less these issues will be questioned or looked down upon,” she says. “This is one of the things women’s funds are striving to do.”

Take a look at the key findings and read up on 13 individual issue areas or download the full report at the Foundation Center website.

The Best Reading on the Tiananmen Square Protests


JUNE 4 MARKS TWO-AND-HALF DECADES since the violent government crackdown on pro-democratic protests in Beijing.

Today, the events of May and June 1989 are banned from public discussion, but there have been calls by activists on social media to wear black today.

To commemorate the anniversary, I’ve compiled some of the best reading on Tiananmen, ranging from eyewitness reports to a new e-book about the protests:

Witnesses Struggle What to Tell Their Children: This piece from The Washington Post gathers powerful testimony from the survivors of the June 4 massacre.

Chinese Netizens Defy Censorship to Mark Anniversary: Chinese netizens are well-known for the clever ways they fight online censorship, and BuzzFeed’s Kevin Tang has a round-up of posts that made it past the censors, including a recreation of “Tank Man” made from Lego.

A new multimedia e-book recounts the demonstrations: An interactive e-book from Radio Free Asia called Tiananmen Incident in Historical Perspective includes eyewitness reporting, and locates the surviving student leaders in a “Where Are They Now” section. The publication is specifically geared towards Chinese readers (it’s written in Mandarin) and is available for download now.

Letter from the Tiananmen Mothers Calls For Truth and Accountability: Thirty-three members of the Mothers have died since they began their activism calling for transparency and dialogue. The current 123 members reaffirm their hope for justice for their children in a letter translated by Human Rights in China.

How Do You Celebrate Independence?

TODAY MARKS THE CENTENNIAL OF TIBETAN INDEPENDENCE DAY, A SYMBOLIC DAY that Tibetans and their supporters pledge to mark every year. 2013 marks one hundred years since Tibetans proclaimed restoration of their independence.

Today’s observance comes at a time when conditions seem worse than ever for those living in in occupied-Tibet. Since 1999, nearly 100 Tibetans have set fire to themselves (“self-immolated”) to protest Chinese rule.

This is the most urgent cry for help a human being can make. In the face of a brutal Chinese regime which aims to erase Tibetan culture from the earth, the Free Tibet movement remains nonviolent. Independence Day is a reminder to renew the spirit of Tibetans, and to commit once again to the struggle for freedom.

Today I raise my Tibetan flag.

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How Martin Luther King Jr. Still Inspires

WE CELEBRATE DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING’S BIRTHDAY today, and most of the press will focus on his achievements as the creator and leader of the nonviolent civil rights movement. You can count on nearly every news outlet showing footage of the “I Have A Dream” speech.

But it’s another speech I’d like to focus on.

“Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table when man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life?”

As a nation, and as a planet, we continue to struggle with poverty. In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech from December 11, 1964, King talked about the worldwide state of poverty and its effect on his own nation:

“A second evil which plagues the modern world is that of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, it projects its nagging, prehensile tentacles in lands and villages all over the world. Almost two-thirds of the peoples of the world go to bed hungry at night. They are undernourished, ill-housed, and shabbily clad. Many of them have no houses or beds to sleep in. Their only beds are the sidewalks of the cities and the dusty roads of the villages. Most of these poverty-stricken children of God have never seen a physician or a dentist. This problem of poverty is not only seen in the class division between the highly developed industrial nations and the so-called underdeveloped nations; it is seen in the great economic gaps within the rich nations themselves. Take my own country for example. We have developed the greatest system of production that history has ever known. We have become the richest nation in the world. Our national gross product this year will reach the astounding figure of almost 650 billion dollars. Yet, at least one-fifth of our fellow citizens – some ten million families, comprising about forty million individuals – are bound to a miserable culture of poverty.

In a sense the poverty of the poor in America is more frustrating than the poverty of Africa and Asia. The misery of the poor in Africa and Asia is shared misery, a fact of life for the vast majority; they are all poor together as a result of years of exploitation and underdevelopment.

In sad contrast, the poor in America know that they live in the richest nation in the world, and that even though they are perishing on a lonely island of poverty they are surrounded by a vast ocean of material prosperity. Glistening towers of glass and steel easily seen from their slum dwellings spring up almost overnight. Jet liners speed over their ghettoes at 600 miles an hour; satellites streak through outer space and reveal details of the moon.”

He then calls for an “all-out war on poverty,” and says

“There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will. The well-off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. The poor in our countries have been shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible. Just as nonviolence exposed the ugliness of racial injustice, so must the infection and sickness of poverty be exposed and healed – not only its symptoms but its basic causes. This, too, will be a fierce struggle, but we must not be afraid to pursue the remedy no matter how formidable the task.”

His words that day were a preview of what would motivate and occupy him in the last four years of his life: anti-war campaigning for Vietnam, and economic reform.

His Poor People’s Campaign was not the triumph of the March on Washington—but imagine if it had been.

It is easy to look back on those times and wax nostalgically about activism and protest. But the fact is that many problems King confronted—war and poverty—remain and dog us today.

He would want us to continue the work he started by speaking out and organizing, and taking small steps of resistance against the forces that prevent change and reform.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It’s also the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. And the beginning of the next four years in America’s democratic process.

What can each of us do today to improve the lives of others?

Read more about the Poor People’s Campaign in these two programs from NPR and PBS. Here is King’s speech about the war, Beyond Vietnam.

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Why You Shouldn’t Make New Year’s Resolutions


Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions yet? 2013 is the year you’ll lose that 10 pounds, quit smoking, finish the novel?

We’ve all been there (we’re there now). And there’s one main reason why you shouldn’t make New Year’s Resolutions.

Resolutions won’t make us thinner, famous, or rich. And here’s why.

Resolutions are a burden. Not only do I want to achieve a goal, but now I’ve got this self-imposed pressure to follow through on it. Suddenly there’s this extra weight on my mind.

If the goal is to lose 10 pounds then that means no ice cream or chocolate cookies. At first we jump on the treadmill. We load up on carrots and mesclun.

Then all that working out makes us tired. Or we get stuck working late and don’t have the energy when we get home. We crave the cookies and eat twice as many as before. We feel guilt. More struggle.

So what do we do?

There is a better, easier way to achieve our goals and improve the lives of those around us.

Think Outside the Box (And Yourself)

Resolutions are often centered around personal goals. My challenge to you is to think beyond yourself: try this, and the “resolutions” take care of themselves.

Instead of resolutions, we can choose to be generous with ourselves.

We can start by noting that those of us in the Global North are incredibly privileged. We have running water, food, shelter, clothing.

We have freedom of expression.

We have freedom, period.

Thich Nhat Hahn writes, “We already have everything we are looking for, everything we want to become.” His advice is perfect anytime, but especially this time of year:

Be yourself. Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just be.

We don’t have to wait for resolutions to be “achieved” to feel fulfilled. That moment of fulfillment is now.

What this doesn’t mean is sitting by. Action is needed: in small and large ways. There is tremendous suffering in the world. As Thich Naht Hanh counsels, it is “our responsibility to bring peace and joy into our own lives, even though not everything in our body, mind, or environment is exactly as we would like.”

Is there someone you know who has experienced personal loss, or is looking for a job? Could they use a helping hand, a piece of advice, or simply someone to listen and talk with?

Is there a cause that’s important to you? What can you do today, right now, to help?

We can improve our society, and ourselves. This is something we can do for ourselves every day. And not just on January 1. When we don’t focus on our own “resolutions,” things get done and change happens. Why? Because only in that moment are we free.

Sounds counterintuitive? Yes, and that’s why it works.

How to Get Things Done in 2013

Let’s say you choose to volunteer one night a week. Suddenly you’re not sitting in the front of the TV eating chips. You’re helping people or contributing to a cause that’s important to you.

Meanwhile you’ve created a little peace and liberation.

Instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, try asking yourself, “how can I become a refuge for others?” (And watch those pounds fly off. Well, you know what I mean.)

Which resolutions will you not be making next year? Please leave a comment below!

And if you liked this post, please share.

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Aid or Trade: Why You Should Read These Top Development Blogs

© Arhuis School of Business

THIS MONTH THE U.K. ANNOUNCED IT WOULD END AID TO INDIA, saying it would focus instead on trade It brought up the ever-present question.

What good does development do, and how will it work moving forward?

If you’re like me, you want to hear what development does, and doesn’t, do. Here’s where you find insight:

NYU Development Research Institute: This is where you’ll find William Easterly, development expert and the founder of the myth-busting, watchdog blog Aid Watch. Although Aid Watch is no longer updated, you can still get a scholarly view of international aid through the Institute’s blog.

Blood and Milk Alanna Shaikh is a 10 year veteran of international aid. Her voice is clear, concise and always enlightening. She’s an insider. Which is brings us to our next blog:

AidSource: Billed as the “Humanitarian Social Network,” AidSource was founded by Shaikh, “J.” from Stuff Expat Workers Like, and Shotgun Shack (which, while we’re here, is definitely another blog to bookmark). If you are interested in development as a career (or as an “industry”), the community here is open, fun, and very knowledgeable.

Wait…What? Linda Raftree’s blog explores her experience and interests in community development and participatory media. Her day job’s with Plan International, and she’s also a tech manager. She wrote recently on the intersection between ICTs and child migration.

Good Intentions Are Not Enough How do you know if your aid donation is doing good? If you’ve ever given to a charity, or even thought about it, Saundra Schimmelpfennig’s nonprofit blog is a must-read.

From Poverty to Power Written and edited by Duncan Green, strategic adviser for Oxfam GB, this blog features guest bloggers, mostly those who work for Oxfam, giving you a look at the challenges behind the people-behind a large aid organization, with good insight, such as what it means to be in India’s new middle class.

Owen Abroad Owen Barder is the Europe Director for the Center for Global Development. Read this blog if you like to know things like transport costs for US food aid programs can be as high as 97 percent of the total cost of aid.

ReliefWeb A one-stop site for news, crisis and emergency updates, and policy and funding analysis.

Where do you do your aid and development reading? Whose writing on development do you never miss?

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How Close Are We to Ending World Hunger?

HUNGER TAKES MANY FORMS: from food insecurity in the United States to global large-scale famines. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches in the U.S., how close are we to ending global hunger?

This video breaks the problem down into who’s hungry and why, and what we can do to solve the problem:

How Can You Help?

Want to help end hunger? Here’s how you can get started:

Become a food activist: learn more here.

Find Out Who’s Hungry: Watch the stories behind hunger at PBS’s Series Food for 9 Billion.

Aid those in your community: here are 3 ways you can help food-insecure Americans now.

Please share this post to help end world hunger today!

What are you doing to help end hunger in your community?