CHICAGO - July 13 - The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced grants totaling $2.15 million in support of two international human rights organizations that provide legal and medical expertise to the human rights field.
"Human Rights First and Physicians for Human Rights are hubs in a growing network of human rights groups around the globe-over 25,000 according to Amnesty International's 2002 annual report," said Jonathan Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation. "Their careful and reliable documentation of abuses in such places as Bosnia, Afghanistan, El Salvador, and Sierra Leone, has helped prosecute war criminals, bring justice to millions who have suffered at the hands of oppressive regimes, and has paved the way for the development of an international system of justice based on the rule of law. Their global reach and reputations lend them the credibility and public support needed to demand an end to human rights violations and to influence policies at the highest level to provide greater protections worldwide."
New York-based Human Rights First received a grant of $1.3 million over three years to improve human rights globally through its work in four areas: protecting refugees and aiding asylum seekers, enhancing the international justice system, providing protections for human rights defenders around the world, and examining the impact of new security concerns on human rights and civil liberties in the United States. Human Rights First (HRF), formerly known as the Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights, provides free legal representation for indigent asylum seekers in the U.S. and monitors and advocates for increased international protections for refugees around the world. Over the next three years, HRF's refugee work will focus on developing and implementing international norms and practices governing the interception and detention of asylum seekers found on the high seas. HRF's work also includes efforts to strengthen the International Criminal Court (ICC). It provides training and legal assistance to civil society groups working to ensure national legal systems meet international standards, and it is helping to gather information and prepare for the successful prosecution of the first cases before the ICC.
Through its Human Rights Defenders program, HRF also intervenes to help activists around the globe and highlights domestic policies that violate international human rights standards. Its fourth area of focus-U.S. security policy-is aimed at analyzing a range of legislative and executive actions designed to promote national security that have negatively impacted human rights and civil liberties in the U.S., including the U.S. Patriot Act. Human Rights First was established in 1978 and has become leader in the development of law on the rights of refugees, especially U.S. asylum law and practice. It has since then expanded its work to provide broad support for the international human rights field.
A grant of $850,000 over three years was awarded to Physicians for Human Rights to use its medical and scientific expertise to advance human rights protections worldwide. Using science-based medical and forensic expertise to investigate human rights abuses in conflict, PHR uses real-time reporting to help end abuses and make policy recommendations to improve conditions for civilians. In Sudan, for example, PHR gathered information-including testimony from victims-that shows a genocidal process unfolding in Darfur, Sudan. It is using its findings to call for a United Nations-backed resolution to intervene to prevent further abuses and to punish perpetrators. PHR also leverages its medical skills and access to help end torture and to protect the human rights of those in custody. Because physicians are often the only outsiders to be let inside detention facilities, they are often in the best position to raise a red flag when they see evidence of torture. PHR led a process to establish international medical standards for evaluating those in custody that has been adopted by the United Nations, and it advocates on behalf of medical professionals who speak out against their governments' practices. PHR's work also includes educational campaigns about health related human rights issues-such as HIV/AIDS-in an effort to promote a proactive international response, and it mobilizes the voice and expertise of health professionals in opposition to policies and practices it views as contrary to the values of human rights, such as the juvenile death penalty in the United States. The group was founded in 1986 and has since sent more than 100 medical and forensic teams to countries throughout the world to investigate reports of torture, disappearances, and extra-judicial executions, among others. Its staff has testified in genocide cases before the International Criminal Tribune in the Hague and has participated in the investigation of past human rights abuses in places such as Turkey, India, Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria.
Grantmaking Strategy: Human Rights
The goals of the Foundation's human rights grantmaking are to support the work of those seeking to strengthen and expand the human rights movement, institutionalize the body of norms and standards laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights within national legal systems, establish an International Criminal Court as an effective and well-functioning institution, and to encourage states to fulfill their obligations to protect civilians at risk of grave human rights abuses.
In working toward these goals, the Foundation makes grants to major human rights organizations that work internationally and to projects that seek to further the development of an international justice system. The Foundation also supports human rights organizations in three countries where MacArthur has offices-Russia, Nigeria, and Mexico.
About the Foundation:
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, with headquarters in Chicago, is a private, independent grant-making institution dedicated to helping groups and individuals foster lasting improvement in the human condition. The Foundation makes grants through four programs. The Program on Human and Community Development supports organizations working primarily on national issues, including community development, regional policy, housing, public education, juvenile justice, and mental health policy. The Program on Global Security and Sustainability supports organizations engaged in international issues, including peace and security, conservation and sustainable development, population and reproductive health, and human rights. The General Program supports public interest media and the production of independent documentary films. The MacArthur Fellows Program awards five-year, unrestricted fellowships to individuals across all ages and fields who show exceptional merit and the promise of continued creative work. With assets of about $4.5 billion, the Foundation makes grants totaling approximately $180 million each year.