Human Rights Funding Up 50% In A Decade

Funding for human rights increased by almost 50 percent during the first half of this decade, according to a new study. The Foundation Center and Human Rights Funders Network (HRFN) began mapping human rights grantmaking in 2010 through the research hub, Advancing Human Rights.

Between 2011 and 2015, foundation funding for human rights worldwide by increased 44 percent, from almost $1.4 billion to more than $2 billion, peaking at $2.3 billion in 2014.

Almost 1,200 funders made at least one grant during that time period that met the definition of human rights. Not all funders shared data each year, according to the report, but a matched subset of 561 funders shared grant data for each of the five years. That explains why 780 foundations in 46 countries made 22,900 grants totaling $2.4 billion for the single year of 2015, versus the 2011-2015 trends.

The new data will be accompanied by a series featuring perspectives from funders detailing stories behind key trends on a blog at the human rights funding website (www.humanrightsfunding.org/blog).

“This is a prime example of our data doing what it’s designed to do, helping social sector leaders track changes in the funding landscape, identify gaps and needs, and collaborate more effectively in meeting the most pressing challenges facing global society,” Foundation Center President Bradford Smith said in a press release announcing the results.

Funding for health and well-being rights grew by 77 percent, from $145 million to $257 million. In 2011, funding from U.S.-based funders who don’t self-identify as human rights funders but increasingly incorproate rights language when describing health-related grants accounted fro 37 percent of health rights funding, which rose to 51 percent by 2015.

The only area that saw a decrease in the research was funding for disability rights, which dropped by nearly a quarter (23 percent).

Funding for strategies like advocacy and systems reform, grassroots organizing and litigation and legal aid more than doubled as support for research and documentation dipped by 19 percent.

Human rights funding grew year by year except for a decrease from $2.3 billion in 2014 to $2 billion in 2015, which could be at least partially attributed to a large founding having spent down its endowment and funders providing less detail about grants due to concerns about closing civic space and digital security.

A multi-year analysis allows for looking past year-to-year fluctuations and identify trends in funding, according to Mona Chun, executive director of HRFN, formerly known as the International Human Rights Funders Group, (IHRFG). “We hope the human rights community will use this research to assess where the field is headed, where it has work to do, and where they can contribute,” she said.

“Advancing Human Rights: The State of Global Foundation Grantmaking,” is a collaborative effort to collect, analyze, and publish data on global human rights funding, led by Foundation Center and HRFN.