Challenge Grant From Open Society Foundations to Expand Global Presence
September 7, 2010
Human Rights Watch is one of the most effective organizations I support. Human rights underpin our greatest aspirations: they’re at the heart of open societies.
George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations.

(New York) – George Soros, philanthropist and financier, today announced a challenge grant of $100 million over 10 years to Human Rights Watch. The grant from his Open Society Foundations, the largest that he has ever made to a nongovernmental organization, will be used to expand and deepen Human Rights Watch’s global presence to more effectively protect and promote human rights around the world.

The grant challenges Human Rights Watch, which accepts no government funding, to raise an additional $100 million in private contributions to match the gift. Human Rights Watch hopes that the combination of the grant and the matching funds to be raised, as well as additional fundraising, will enable it to implement a strategic plan for becoming a truly global organization. The plan will require Human Rights Watch to increase its annual budget from $48 million to $80 million within five years.

“Human Rights Watch is one of the most effective organizations I support,” said Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations. “Human rights underpin our greatest aspirations: they’re at the heart of open societies.”

Soros said that he is particularly interested in encouraging philanthropists outside of the traditional supporters of human rights in Europe and North America.

The grant is intended to support the internationalization of Human Rights Watch, enabling it to staff advocacy offices in key regional capitals around the world and to deepen its research presence on countries of concern. Human Rights Watch plans especially to increase its capacity to influence emerging powers in the global South to push a pro-human rights agenda.

“Human Rights Watch can have even greater impact by being genuinely international in scope,” Soros said. “Human Rights Watch must be present in capitals around the globe, addressing local issues, allied with local rights groups and engaging with local government officials. In five years’ time it aims to have as much as half its income and a majority of its board members come from outside the United States.”

By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, Human Rights Watch gives voice to the oppressed and holds oppressors accountable for their crimes. Human Rights Watch’s rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for change and raise the cost of human rights abuse. Since 1978, Human Rights Watch has fought for deep-rooted improvements in human rights practices and has helped bring justice and security to people around the world.

“In an increasingly multi-polar world, we must ensure that Human Rights Watch’s message resonates in the most influential capitals around the globe,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Ending serious abuses requires generating pressure from any government with clout, including emerging powers in the global South.”

With a staff of almost 300 and addressing human rights conditions in nearly 90 countries, Human Rights Watch publishes around 100 reports and several hundred news releases each year. The challenge grant will enable Human Rights Watch to invest additional resources to fill significant gaps in its reporting network, including in parts of Africa and Asia. It will also enable Human Rights Watch to add greater depth on issues where its research staff is spread too thinly.

In addition, to maximize the impact of its research, Human Rights Watch would add staff to engage more effectively with national governments on local and regional issues of concern, and develop relationships with journalists who reach local audiences. By basing more researchers and advocates in key countries, Human Rights Watch will be better placed to engage with government officials, journalists, and civil society and better able to secure positive change.

“We hope that George Soros’s example will help the human rights movement worldwide by encouraging philanthropists to invest in the ideals of human rights,” Roth said.

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