Financial resources

Whether human rights defenders work for a human rights organisation or on their own, activities promoting and protecting human rights are likely to require sustained funding. These activities include:

  • organising protest
  • publishing materials
  • travelling to gather information on human rights violations
  • attending meetings with victims or members of the state
  • having access to communications equipment
  • providing legal assistance to the victims of human rights abuses.

Sources of funding for human rights work include donations by:

  • individuals
  • national and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
  • national and foreign government bodies such as overseas development funds
  • international governmental organisations such as the European Union.

Funding can be:

  • short term, for example to resource a project or assist a human rights defender at risk
  • long term, to enable an NGO to maintain, develop or expand its activities.

Fundraising is subject to legal and administrative frameworks, including tax and NGO laws, which vary from country to country. To be transparent in the source and use of funds and remain accountable to donors, individuals and organisations should familiarise themselves with the legal requirements of the country they are operating in, and the reporting and accounting requirements of funders.

Before approaching a funder and to increase the likelihood of the application being successful, it is important to:

  • research the funder in as much depth as possible
  • ensure the work matches the funder's criteria as closely as possible
  • adhere to the funder's application guidelines.

This will also help to minimise the frustration of many funders who receive unsolicited or inappropriate applications for support.

International human rights law does not permit governments to impose bureaucratic and legal barriers that restrict access to resources, including:

  • bans on human rights organisations receiving funds from donors within their own country and from abroad
  • unreasonable reporting requirements
  • prior government approval to seek resources.

This may jeopardise their ability to conduct human rights work for the benefit of those they seek to support.

Guides on fundraising

Writing a Funding Proposal by CIVICUS (downloadable PDF)
A Guide to Fundraising by Network Learning
NGO Fund Raising Strategies by GDRC (Global Development Research Centre)
The Ten Most Common Reasons Grants are Declined by GDRC
Researching Grants and Funding Resources Online by the UN Information Technology Service
Learn About Proposal Writing by the Foundation Center, USA
Advice to Grantseekers by the European Foundation Centre by the European Foundation Centre
The Resource Alliance (formerly known as the International Fund Raising Group)

Possible sources of financial support

Directory of Donors by OneWorld UK
Hellman-Hammett Grants administered by Human Rights Watch, for writers who have been politically persecuted
Urgent Action Fund for women human rights defenders at risk
Front Line grants for human rights defenders at risk
The UN Funds
The Fund for Global Human Rights
European Union funding for large or small projects
The Foundation Centre, donors in the USA
KIOS (the Finnish NGO Foundation for Human Rights), funding for human rights initiatives with a legal aspect
IFJ Safety Fund funding for journalists facing medical expenses due to physical attack

Amnesty International is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.


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