A Season of Change
Last year marked a monumental turning point for the Fund for Global Human Rights. In November 2022, we bid a bittersweet farewell to our founder, Regan Ralph, who stepped down as president and CEO after 20 years of brilliant leadership.
Leadership transitions, especially of a long-standing leader or founder, are both fraught and full of possibility. They demand careful planning and introspection. The Fund’s transition has required us to reflect deeply on our values, strengths, and deficits; to interrogate what kind of leadership will guide us forward as an organization; and to consider carefully what frontline human rights activists and communities need most from us.
In this moment of transition, we have an incredible opportunity for renewal. Around the world, human rights activists face new and mounting challenges. Fundamental freedoms are being rolled back. But our frontline partners are committed to defending and expanding human rights—and so are we. As a new year begins, we’re taking stock of where we’ve been, where we’re going, and what we can do to build a better, fairer world in 2023.
Looking Back on 2022
Over the last year, we bore witness to significant headwinds and alarming trends on multiple fronts.
Fund grantees—and human rights defenders around the world—are dealing with intersecting challenges and threats. Across the globe, democracy is declining. From Afghanistan to the United States, fundamental freedoms—for women, for children and youth, for workers, for migrants—are being rolled back or trample underfoot.
State surveillance and persecution of human rights defenders remains a persistent challenge. The global spyware industry is booming and, as research supported by the Fund has evidenced, repressive governments are using a growing number of nefarious tools and tactics to harass and surveil activists. In August of last year, Fund grantee Josoor—a leading migrants’ rights group based in Turkey—was forced to dissolve due in part to unfounded criminal investigations in Greece, where their work has exposed the brutality of the European Union’s border policies.
And the existential specter of climate change continues to loom large over every area of our work. We don’t have to look far to see its effects. From the devastating floods in Pakistan to the prolonged drought in East Africa, marginalized and at-risk communities are already bearing the brunt of environmental destruction.
That’s the bad news. But against this backdrop, we also celebrated long-sought victories as local civil society continues to make meaningful progress around the world.
In 2022, Fund grantees helped hold state and nonstate actors alike accountable for human rights abuses. Together, we celebrated the resolution of decades-long legal battles—like in the Philippines, where a regional court ordered a mining corporation to pay restitution for its negligence in a 1993 Marcopper environmental disaster. And we cheered on forward progress in the fight for justice, including Fund grantee ABJP’s critical role in the landmark conviction of paramilitary members responsible for the abuse of Indigenous women during Guatemala’s civil war.
Human rights defenders fearlessly pushed back against regressive laws and policies, overcame restrictions on civil society, and expanded the rights of marginalized communities. In 2022, Colombia became the latest Latin American state to decriminalize abortion—a true testament to the power of mass social movements. And from the front lines of the war in Ukraine to communities in Pakistan devastated by flooding, the Fund helped grassroots activists provide urgent support to people in dire need.
Despite the litany of threats and challenges, one thing is clear: local civil society has never been more vibrant, resilient, or effective. That’s why, going into 2023, we’re committed to understanding the support our partners need—and being the organization that can deliver it.
Meeting This Moment
From day one, the Fund has been an idea defined by change. Indeed, it remains one of our strongest assets.
Rather than developing a fixed, signature methodology, we took as our hallmark a set of values—agility, integrity, respect, sustainability, and inclusiveness. As the years have gone by and the world has changed, so have we. Our organization has grown; our work has expanded; our approach has evolved. But all of these changes were driven by our desire to be a strong ally to frontline activists and movements. Yes, we have always been a grantmaker, but how we make those grants and what we do alongside grantmaking has adapted to the changing needs of grantees and the demands of the moment.
Through good times and bad, we have been guided by our commitment to each other, to our global community, to our goals and vision, and to our values. These ground us and have helped us navigate the challenges of building an organization strong enough to weather what comes our way.
This next year, whatever it may bring, will be no different. In the coming months, we’re going to be changing again. The Fund will welcome new leadership and, with it, new possibilities. We’ll continue to grow together as a values-driven organization. We’ll find new ways to strengthen our delivery of flexible, trust-based, and long-term support to our partners. And we’ll embrace this opportunity for continued adaptation and change in service of our mission. We’re excited for the future of the Fund—and we hope you are too.
Happy New Year and thank you for supporting the Fund for Global Human Rights.
– Brandee M. Butler, Acting President and CEO