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What We’re Looking Forward to in 2021

We don’t need to remind you that last year wasn’t easy—for anyone. From the devastating COVID-19 pandemic to political violence around the world, 2020 was defined by turmoil.

In this challenging new context, the Fund pivoted to continue providing the urgent support and strategic assistance our partners need to carry out their vital work.

Now, as 2021 dawns, we’re looking ahead to what comes next. But before we signed off for a few days of rest and relaxation at the end of a tough year, we asked our staff what they are looking forward to in 2021.

Their answers reminded us why we hold onto our hope—for the promise of days to come, for the work that lies ahead, and for the incredible opportunity we have to change lives. Here’s what they had to say:

“As we turn the page on 2020, I will continue to be inspired by creative, courageous human rights defenders.

January 1 won’t bring an end to the global pandemic, which will continue to expose the lack of social and economic protections for the majority of the global population. It won’t resolve racial and ethnic injustice or stop the continued state murders of people of color and around the world.

But while inequality and injustice will not disappear in the new year, neither will the grassroots movements of activists and everyday people that have mobilized to demand change, confront injustice and press for deep, transformational change to ensure communities are resilient in the face of future emergencies and challenges.” David Mattingly, Vice President for Programs

Pyo Pyo, a program coordinator with the Fund-supported Karen Women's Organization in Myanmar, travels by boat on a community visit.

“Democracies in Latin America and the human rights movement face great challenges in the coming year—many of these are shared in several countries. I’m looking forward to seeing regional and local action networks intertwine in collective and coordinated actions led by Fund-supported activists. 2020 set the ground for more innovative and impactful work in the upcoming year.”Ricardo Gonzalez Bernal, Program Officer for Latin America

“While the world is still experiencing and reeling from the impact of COVID-19 and other major events of 2020, I’m optimistic that 2021 is going to be a better year – a year for innovation, learning and growth. I think 2020 has given people across the globe an opportunity to question their assumptions. Assumptions about what work is and how it’s done, about lifestyle habits and routines, about the importance of community and society, about our roles within society, and about the broken systems or norms that have perpetuated inequalities and injustices within our societies for far too long.

My hope is that in 2021, we take what we have learned and begin to build back a better world. As we try to define a ‘new normal’, I’m excited about the opportunity we all have to disrupt the status quo, innovate and grow. I’m thrilled to be working for an organization that supports the grassroots activists who will be leading the charge!”Robin Pierro, Director of Communications and Marketing

“My main hope for 2021 is an overarching feeling that the pandemic, the anti-racist reckonings around the world (but particularly in the United States), and the climate crisis apex have broken things wide open, giving us the opportunity—indeed, the imperative—to reconstruct in a way that aligns with our values. This goes for the personal, institutional, and societal levels.

We have no choice but to move through this and rebuild, and so we might as well try to get it right by building something beautiful.” – Marianne Mollmann, Director of Regional Programs

Swaleh is a grassroots community activist working to improve lives on Kenya's coast.

“I am looking forward to engaging in a new partnership with a grassroots group on the front lines of the resource rights sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—artisanal miners. The search is part of the excitement!” Louis-Marie Nindorera, Program Officer for the African Great Lakes

“Although 2020 has brought us many challenges, it is time to turn the page and look ahead. We do so with optimism. The past year has reminded us that change is constant and disruption generates opportunity. As our employees confront new and different challenges, the Fund’s focus will continue to be helping them navigate the uncertainty and harness the power of change.

As we rise to meet the needs of our grantees in the year ahead, we also continue to grow and invest in our platform and people. We anticipate multiple new hires in the coming year and are looking forward to expanding our staff across the globe.

It is often said that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Taking stock of the impressive accomplishments of the past year, we have no doubt that the Fund is exceptionally well positioned to be there for our employees and grantees alike as they—and we—look ahead.” – JeTrice Carr, Human Resources Generalist

“I’m looking forward to using the learning from the Fund’s successful pilot participatory grant-making model in Sierra Leone. Young people in Sierra Leone and across the world are taking increasing leadership in addressing human rights, environmental, and development challenges that affect them and their communities, but often they face restrictive societal norms and barriers that limit their participation in local decision-making spaces and processes.

With this initiative, the Fund is taking a brave step toward deepening our investment and support of youth leadership, agency, and participation—and in rethinking our grant-making practices to increase the engagement of those they aim to serve.” – John Kabia, Program Officer for Children and Youth Rights

Abdessalem Zaybi (Director Of Association Amal) with a local woman who received legal assistance after she unfairly lost her job.

“Next year, I am looking forward to our continued efforts to include migrants in the COVID-19 response and recovery. Fund-supported organizations will be supporting migrants that are living in camps and slum conditions, incarcerated, or lack status, all of whom are exposed to a higher degree of risk. Additional funds for COVID relief will allow us to add new organizations to the program.

I am also excited for the work being done to ensure accountability for human rights violations and to address the negative human rights impacts of the externalization of migration, asylum, and border management policies. The activists we support will continue to respond to crackdowns on civic space and toxic narratives about migrants.” – Houda Benmbarek, Program Consultant for Migrants’ Rights

I am looking forward to connecting—in person, at some point!—with family, friends and colleagues across the world and to the creativity and sense of possibility those connections generate.”Regan Ralph, President and CEO

As we say goodbye (or good riddance) to 2020, we offer to you these words of wisdom, vision, and promise, that they may lift your spirits—as they did ours. From everyone at the Fund, here’s wishing you a happy and hopeful new year!

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