Five Ways for Grantmakers to Support Human Rights Defenders

Around the world, authoritarianism is on the rise, right-wing nationalism is gaining ground and economic inequality continues to grow. As a result, many of the countries in which AJWS works have experienced a brutal crackdown on activism—making activists and human rights defenders (HRDs) vulnerable to vilification and attacks from governments, corporations and non-state actors. The grassroots partners and HRDs we support—many of whom have mobilized to challenge these powerful stakeholders—are experiencing the brunt of this backslide of human rights.

AJWS works to ensure that grassroots activists and HRDs have access to the tools they need to respond to human rights violations and social injustices. We integrate five key practices in our approach to supporting HRDs and their work:

  • Provide emergency grants to support immediate response to repression: Emergency rapid response grants can be critical to help HRDs and their organizations respond to threats and attacks by implementing immediate safety and security measures such as relocation assistance or obtaining legal aid.
  • Support holistic security: AJWS is committed to making our grants to human rights organizations as flexible as possible so that they can support holistic forms of safety and security. This includes not only physical and digital protection for individual HRDs and organizations, but also psychological support and self-care.
  • Integrate historically marginalized identities, including gender identity and sexual orientation: AJWS works to understand the security issues that women, LGBTI and other similarly marginalized HRDs face in their work. These concerns are rarely prioritized by mainstream human rights organizations. We support our grantee partners to accordingly develop security plans that address the needs of these activists.
  • Facilitate linkages with international allies: AJWS helps to connect grassroots HRDs to international human rights organizations that can further support their work. This includes shining an international media spotlight on HRDs that have come under attack, providing guidance to HRDs on safety and security, and enabling HRDs to advocate in international human rights forums to raise awareness about their work and the risks they face.

With AJWS’s continued and consistent support, which follows these best practices, our partners are able to better weather the storms brewing in their countries and maintain their ongoing struggles for justice and equality.