Philanthropy has a crucial role to play in supporting human rights groups to focus on people’s economic and social rights as well as promoting their civil and political freedoms

Human rights philanthropy is not a straightforward business. Supporting people to claim their rights involves funding advocacy efforts which may not be successful, court cases which may go on for years, and campaigns which may struggle to achieve concrete results.

Yet support for human rights causes represents 5 percent of all philanthropy, amounting to $2.8 billion in 2016, according to the latest figures collected by the Human Rights Funders Network and Candid.

So what drives philanthropists and foundations to devote their resources to human rights?  For some it’s personal – having experienced discrimination or abuse oneself or seeing it happen to friends or loved ones. Others come to human rights through concern for the most vulnerable in society and a desire to change the structures which create and sustain such vulnerability.

Many of the human rights mechanisms set up by the United Nations, Council of Europe, Organisation of American States, African Union and other regional bodies are being challenged. Some of the states that initially signed up to the human rights treaties they oversee are now declaring that they will not be bound and constrained by their own commitments.

What is the role of philanthropy for human rights then?

One role is simply to help keep the human rights movement alive. In the face of so many challenges, significant victories can be few and far between, but simply keeping the pressure on governments to respect human rights is important. Social change is a long-term endeavour.

Read the full article about human rights philanthropy by John Kabia at Alliance Magazine.