In many countries across the globe, democracy is under attack and authoritarianism on the rise. Corrupt and abusive leaders violate the fundamental rights of citizens through political repression, and increasingly crack down on those who dare to speak up for their rights and for the rights of others—through threats, imprisonment, torture or even murder. Marginalized populations—particularly women, youth, Indigenous groups, and religious, ethnic or sexual minorities—are frequently excluded from civic and political life.
Although many countries have ratified United Nations treaties and covenants that safeguard basic human rights such as the rights to political participation, free speech and peaceful assembly, some stray from their pledges and others haven’t signed on at all. Left unchecked, corrupt and power-hungry leaders get away with shocking abuses—consolidating their power, dismantling democratic institutions and persecuting minority populations, pushing them further to the margins of society.
In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has ignited an increased rise in authoritarianism, bigotry and violence. Authoritarian regimes are abusing their power—muzzling the press, backing legislation that threatens human rights, and undermining the rights of citizens under the guise of preventing infection.
How We Make Change
To counter these challenges, in 2021 AJWS supported 159 courageous social change organizations building movements fighting for democracy and human rights. These activists are empowering people to learn about their rights; speak out against corruption, violence and abuse; use the ballot box as a vehicle for change; and organize to advance human rights at the local, national and global levels. Our grantees are often at the center of transformational moments—elections, peace negotiations or large-scale protests—when the rights of minority communities are most at risk or when there are strategic opportunities to foster lasting impact.
In regions rife with corruption or led by dictators, our grantees seek to make governments more just, transparent and accountable and ensure free and fair elections through which all citizens can make their voices heard. In countries emerging from conflict, they support peace negotiations and ensure that the root causes of the conflict are addressed, taking into account the needs of women, minorities and other citizens caught in the crossfire.
And in societies where discrimination, violence and other abuses go unpunished, they conduct advocacy, provide legal aid and pursue legislative reform to ensure that authorities implement and enforce equitable laws and that the survivors of crimes and atrocities can pursue justice in courts.
When those in power silence, exclude or impoverish the vulnerable, AJWS grantees organize and mobilize communities to demand equality and shape their own solutions to the problems they face.
We’re building a world where all citizens can:
- Participate in the political process to shape decisions that affect their everyday lives
- Express views freely and obtain and share information without censorship or fear of retribution
- Assemble, organize and mobilize social change efforts peacefully
- Live free from violence, discrimination and oppression based on who they are or what they believe