Grants that Make A Difference, 2013

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’ accomplishments in 2013:

Accountability for Gross Human Rights Abuses
Former Guatemalan president Efrain Rios Montt became the first head of state to be convicted of genocide by a domestic court. Despite a subsequent politically-motivated ruling requiring that part of the case be re-tried, the initial ruling is a critical step in the country’s fight against impunity and the result of thirteen years of work by Fund grantees. This case and others against high-level officials continue.

Fund grantees in the Philippines were instrumental in the passage of a bill awarding compensation to thousands of victims of arbitrary detention, torture and executions under former president Ferdinand Marcos’ regime.

In Mexico, where an estimated 70,000 migrants have disappeared in the last six years, FJEDD and Fray Juan successfully pressed the Attorney General’s office to create a commission that will identify and determine the cause of death of remains found in clandestine mass graves, a critical first step towards justice for the families of the disappeared.

Access to Information
The Sierra Leone parliament passed the country’s first Freedom of Information law, a major step in ensuring greater government transparency and rule of law. SDI gave critical input on the bill’s content and led a civil society coalition pushing for its passage.

Women’s Rights
Indian lawmakers passed a law banning manual scavenging—the practice of having low-caste workers, primarily women, remove human waste by hand—and establishing retraining programs for thousands of scavengers. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recognized Fund grantee Jan Sahas as instrumental in this effort.

Mexican grantee CIFAM successfully pressed policy-makers in Chiapas to expand the legal definition of domestic violence to include abusive behavior between unmarried partners.

Migrants’ Rights
Following international pressure generated by grantee GADEM, Morocco announced an overhaul of its immigration policy—introducing new pathways to legal status—that will have far-reaching effects for the estimated 20,000 sub-Saharan migrants within its borders.

Corporate Accountability and Environmental Justice
An Ontario court ruled that Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals can be held liable for rapes and murder at a Guatemalan mine—the first time that a Canadian court will hear a claim against a parent company for abuses at a foreign subsidiary. Rights Action and El Estor received pro bono support from law firm Klippenstein to achieve this victory.

A report by CTUHR, which uncovered appalling working conditions and child labor on Mindanao province’s banana plantations in the Philippines, prompted the Dole company to withdraw its ‘ethical choice’ label on bananas sold to New Zealand markets.

Grantee Prodesc convinced the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board to divest its holdings of Excellon shares due to the company’s alleged abuses of the La Sierrita community in Durango, Mexico.

ENLAW won a ten-year legal battle when Thai courts ordered the government to clean up polluted Klity Creek and compensate villagers for their loss of food and resources. The ruling also requires the state to create protection plans before permitting factory operations that pose health and environmental risks.

Prisoner’s Rights
Guinean grantee MDT secured the release of 112 prisoners held in prolonged pretrial detention.

Thanks to HDO, five police officers were suspended for use of torture in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, and over 1,200 prisoners received much-needed medical attention and information on protecting their rights.

LGBT Rights
A historic case brought by grantee SMUG and the Center for Constitutional Rights cleared a major legal hurdle when a federal judge denied the defense’s motion to dismiss. The suit alleges American pastor Scott Lively’s leadership in Uganda’s anti-gay movement is persecution of LGBT people, a crime that can be prosecuted in US courts.

Thanks to R-Rights and WLB, the Philippines delegation to the UN Commission on the Status of Women included violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity in its country statement—the first time the government recognized the particular vulnerabilities of LBT women in an international forum.

Children’s Rights
SAGUIPED established and trained six women’s groups along the Guinea-Senegal border to fight cross-border trafficking; in the first half of 2013, these groups assisted more than fifty trafficked children, reintegrating them with their families and communities.

During a year of intensified fighting in eastern DRC, BVES worked with the UN to release 200 children targeted for recruitment by the Congolese armed forces.

APRODH successfully pressured the Burundian government to amend its penal code to include new protections for children in conflict with the law. Children in court must now have an attorney present, a mandate the organization believes will result in more cases being diverted to mediation.