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A trajectory of trends in Advancing Human Rights  

Advancing Human Rights report cover with young activists

Since 2010, Candid and Human Rights Funders Network (HRFN) have partnered to produce Advancing Human Rights, an annual report that tracks the evolving state of global human rights philanthropy. Our respective organizations join in collaboration each year with Ariadne—European Funders for Social Change and Human Rights, and Prospera—International Network of Women’s Funds, to conduct this research and provide the single most comprehensive analysis of where philanthropic money goes for human rights around the world. In our annual analysis, we unpack which issues get funded and which don’t, where human rights issues overlap and intersect, and how funding changes from year to year.  

The latest report, Advancing Human Rights: Annual Review of Global Foundation Grantmaking—2018 Key Findings, provides a new analysis of the human rights funding landscape. In the wake of recent events—a pandemic, worldwide protests, elections—2018 may feel like a world away. As we look at the 2018 data (the latest year for which complete data on foundation funding is available), it’s important to understand that many of the human rights issues we currently face grew out of this context. Responses to COVID-19 cannot be divorced from the foundational issues that shape how governments, social movements, and funders address (or compound) human rights abuses. Writing in a year of so much global unrest, we see this report as a baseline and an offering, a trajectory of the trends that helps identify places where philanthropy can better meet the needs of human rights movements around the world.  

Key Findings 

In 2018, 826 funders made 27,586 human rights grants totaling $3.7 billion, reaching 16,230 recipients worldwide. Roughly a quarter of these funders made just one or two human rights grants, which underscores the potential to leverage more resources to advance human rights. Here we share highlights from the report on what we found. 

  • Human rights funding is increasing. We documented $3.7 billion in human rights funding in 2018, more than ever before, and saw a 13 percent increase between 2017 and 2018 from funders that submitted grants data for both years. Yet, we hesitate to paint too rosy a picture: this funding is a drop in the bucket. For comparison, total human rights funding in 2018 was equivalent to just 12 percent of Facebook’s operating expenses in the same year. 
  • A handful of funders have considerable influence. The top 12 of the 826 human rights funders accounted for 45 percent of total grant dollars ($1.7B). This means that funders’ (changing) priorities can have an enormous impact on the field. 
  • Long-term, flexible funding is critical for adequately resourcing human rights movements. But to what extent is it happening in practice? Our data show that foundations that are members of HRFN, Ariadne, and/or Prospera provide significantly more flexible funding than other human rights funders, granting almost a third of their grant dollars as flexible general support. The average grant length, on the other hand, is both short and comparable for members and non-members at just slightly over a year. 
  • Our findings point to what we are calling a “trust gap,” with Global North funders providing restricted forms of funding to recipients in the Global South and East, or not funding them at all, despite supporting work in these regions. For instance, organizations based in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean receive a third or less of the funding meant to benefit their regions. In contrast, 87 percent of the grant dollars meant to benefit Western Europe go to groups in that region. At the same time, grant recipients in North America are significantly more likely to receive flexible general support than recipients in any other region. 
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has brought disparities in health equity for marginalized communities, including people of color, into stark relief. Despite some promising work at this intersection, funding for health equity and well-being rights for ethnic and racial groups represents less than one percent of the overall $8 billion in U.S. foundation giving for health. This is an area where funders have a critical role to play and which we anticipate will shift dramatically in the years marked by the pandemic.  

To get the full picture, learn more about Candid and HRFN’s Advancing Human Rights analysis, and access the full report, click here.  


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