The Fund identifies organizations that are leading the charge for protection and enforcement of human rights, building on-the-ground demand for change, and feeding into global efforts to press for equality, justice and accountability. Here are a few of our grantees’ impressive accomplishments in 2016:
Justice and Rule of Law
In March, two ex-military officers in Guatemala were sentenced to 360 years imprisonment for crimes against humanity, including holding 15 women as sexual slaves at a military base. This significant step in the fight against impunity is the first time the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war has been tried in a national court; grantees ECAP and MTM spent years gathering evidence, investigating chains of command, and providing emotional accompaniment to survivors as they prepared to testify.
Years of advocacy by grantees MDT, COJEDEV, ADDEF and SAGUIPED led the Guinean government to adopt a revised Penal Code with provisions that abolish the death penalty, criminalize torture and, for the first time, includes crimes against humanity under Guinean law.
In Mexico, Fray Matías secured an important legal precedent when the Federal Court of Fiscal and Administrative Justice overturned a previous resolution that had denied refugee status to a Salvadoran family who fled El Salvador in 2014 due to a founded fear of persecution. The decision is one of the first of its kind, setting a favorable precedent for future cases addressing refugee status in Mexico.
In January 2016, Indian Fund grantee Jan Sahas freed fifteen bonded laborers who were trafficked and forced to labor under slave-like conditions on a sugarcane plantation in Karnataka state.
Fund grantee CFO mobilized women laborers in maquilas (factories) manufacturing spare automobile parts in the Mexican city of Ciudad Acuna to demand their rights. Thanks to their work, the maquilas approved new regulations that aim to prevent sexual harassment and violence against female factory workers.
Corporate Accountability and Environmental Justice
In Guatemala, grantees COPAE and Consejo Wuxtaj won six historic appeals against mining concessions that were approved without the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the affected indigenous peoples. Guatemala’s highest court ruled the concessions illegal and unconstitutional in all cases, ordering them suspended. This has major significance for indigenous communities in Guatemala, but also across the region as FPIC becomes an increasingly important framework for protecting indigenous land rights.
In Pakistan’s Sindh Province, grantee RTT successfully mobilized twenty village groups to prevent the extension of a gas pipeline by Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited. The company originally obtained consent by falsely promising local communities access to gas.
In a significant ruling, the Mexican Supreme Court granted an appeal to beekeeping Mayan communities in Yucatán accompanied by grantee Indignacion in fighting Monsanto’s expansion of genetically modified soy plantations. The Court suspended Monsanto concessions granted without FPIC of the communities, who have seen their livelihoods profoundly affected, until and unless they collectively consent.
Thanks to years of sustained advocacy by Pakistani women’s rights organizations, including grantee SIMORGH, Punjab Province passed an amendment bill that increased the quota for women’s representation in parliament from 5% to 33%.
The Sierra Leone parliament ratified the Maputo Protocol, a critical mechanism for pressuring the government to fulfil its regional and international obligations to protect women’s rights. Fund grantees had pressed for ratification of the Protocol—which includes provisions on sexual and reproductive rights, social and economic equality, violence against women, and harmful traditional practices—for years.
In February, grantee Djazairouna successfully led civil society efforts to challenge the Algerian parliament’s 8-month blockade of a violence against women bill, paving the way for the passage of the country’s first law punishing perpetrators of violence against women and sexual harassment.
Guinean grantee CEGUIFED has seen a considerable reduction in forced and early marriages in the prefecture of Fria, where it ran a door-to-door campaign to educate parents about the dangers of the practice.
In the State of Maharashtra, India, Vidhayak Sansad organized large protests against malnutrition, which affects 5,500 children in the Palghar district. The mounting political pressure led Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to order the creation of a comprehensive development plan to address the health, education, and nutritional needs of Tribal children.
Guatemala raised the legal age of marriage from fourteen for girls and sixteen for boys to eighteen for both sexes. Fund grantee Sinergia played a key role in the coalition that pressed for the reform.
The Indian Supreme Court announced it would re-examine a previous ruling criminalizing homosexuality. The news was met with elation from the LGBTI community and Fund grantees who’ve campaigned to raised awareness of the intimidation, violence, and harassment under the current law.
As a result of trainings for police officers conducted by Fund grantee SAIL in Liberia in 2016, the Liberian National Police created an emergency hotline for LGBTI individuals to report cases of abuse and appointed a senior officer to help develop policies and responses to issues faced by LGBTI people, a hugely important shift in a country where violence and harassment of LGBTI individuals is commonplace.
Activism Under Threat
After years of advocacy by DRC grantees, the South Kivu parliament passed a law protecting human rights activists, including the right to freedom of assembly and expression—the first of its kind in the country.
Advocacy and technical engagement by a civil society coalition—in which the Fund played a lead role—led the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) of the G8 to revise its Recommendation 8, frequently used by governments around the world to justify burdensome legislative and regulatory restrictions on NGOs. The revision removes a blanket description of NGOs as ‘particularly vulnerable’ to illicit financing.
In an important ruling for freedom of assembly and expression, a Thai judge dismissed a case against two environmental defenders represented by grantee Community Resource Center. The activists had been arrested on trumped-up charges after organizing protests of a gold mine in Wang Sa Pung District.