Exploring Patterns of Human Rights Funding

Who are the main donors for the global human rights movement? What kind of causes is this funding devoted to? Does the allocated funding reflect the salience of various human rights causes? The Foundation Center and the International Human Rights Funders Group recently released a report Advancing Human Rights: The State of Global Foundation Grantmaking, outlining quantitative data about the scale of response to human rights violations. The reports finds that $1.2 billion in grants were given out for various human rights causes in 2010, with the following organizations being the main donors for human rights causes worldwide.


fundingareaThough this report is a good start for analyzing global funding patterns for human rights, a caveat is in order. First, the methodology followed to produce this report reflects a bias in favor of US and European donors because of the relatively easy accessibility of grants data for organizations based in these regions. More precisely, the report looks at funding practices of donors affiliated with the Foundation Center, Ariadne/European Human Rights Funders Network and the International Network of Women’s Funds. A number of organizations across Asia and Africa may not be affiliated with these centers, leading to their absence from the report.

Nevertheless, since most of the biggest donors are American and European and are accounted for in this report, this data helps us identify issues where the scope of the problem may not align with the scale of the response.  For instance, there is a startlingly low amount of funding given to address gender-based violence, with only $5.3 million directed to the issue of domestic violence and another $8.6 million to the issue of gender or identity-based violence in 2010. Combined, these account for only about 1 percent of all of the $1.2 billion in grants included in the study. However, non-alignment between the scope of the problem and scale of the funding is more than just an issue of donor preferences. In many countries such as Egypt, India and Russia, foreign donors are often regarded with suspicion, preventing the channeling of funds to donors’ intended targets. A next step thus should be to look at indigenous philanthropy, how its volume varies across regions due to intimidation from domestic authorities, and whether funding from local sources can increase the legitimacy of particular agendas and strategies.

For more on funding patterns of human rights debates, stay tuned for the debate on Open Global Rights over at OpenDemocracy.