Human rights defenders
Deepening inequality; racial, ethnic and gender discrimination; increasing violence; and the expansion of land concessions and extractive projects is seen in many places across Mesoamerica. However, a vibrant civil society is pushing back against human rights abuses and working to hold governments, organized crime and corporations accountable. In response to their human rights advocacy, many human rights defenders and their families face retaliation from powerful state and non-state actors. This can take the form of harassment, criminalization, defamation, detention, torture, sexual or gender-based violence, and even death. Overbrook, therefore, looks to support organizations that seek to expand the space for activists to continue engaging in their important work safely and effectively.
Overbrook funds a variety of approaches to supporting human rights defenders at risk in Central America and Mexico, as the Foundation recognizes that responses must be holistic and layered to be effective. Providing both emergency and preventative responses, grantees have employed strategies that include: policy and legal advocacy efforts; peer-to-peer network building; physical accompaniment; trainings on risk analyses and security planning; self-care and wellbeing; digital and physical security measures; and emergency grants for threatened activists. Given the heightened threats facing these defenders because of their identities and their activism, Overbrook is committed to those groups engaging and supporting rural, women, LGBT and indigenous human rights defenders, environmentalists and journalists at risk in the region.
Below are the Foundation's 2017 grantees supporting human rights defenders at risk in Mesoamerica.
Press Freedom in the Americas - $25,000 (second payment of a two-year grant)
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) promotes press freedom worldwide and defends the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. CPJ ensures the free flow of news and commentary by taking action wherever journalists are censored, attacked, imprisoned, or killed for their work. Founded in 1981, CPJ has grown to become a leading voice in the global movement for free expression. Support from The Overbrook Foundation enables CPJ to confront urgent press freedom challenges across the Americas.
General Operating Support - $40,000 (second payment of a three-year grant)
The Environmental Defender Law Center (EDLC) works to protect the human rights of people in developing countries who are fighting against harm to their environment. EDLC's primary role is brokering: identifying cases of people who are suffering human rights abuses while protecting their environment and their way of life, and enlisting lawyers from premier firms to work on their behalf. EDLC and the law firms defend these environmental defenders from unfounded criminal charges and civil suits; argue for the enforcement of international human rights norms to local courts and human rights bodies; bring precedent-setting claims against domestic and multinational corporations for past and threatened harms; and help communities stop unwanted resource development projects. EDLC also funds litigation costs by making grants to help bring cases against corporations and governments harming human rights and the environment; and advises and provides other resources to environmental defenders.
Protecting Maya Q’eqchi’ Land and Resource Rights in Guatemala - $35,000 (second payment of a two-year grant)
The Indian Law Resource Center is a legal advocacy organization working to promote and defend the human rights of indigenous peoples in the Americas. The Center provides assistance without charge to Indian nations and other indigenous communities that are working to protect their lands, environments, cultures and ways of life; combat racism and oppression; achieve sustainable economic development and genuine self-government; and, realize their human rights. The Center is providing legal counsel and assistance to Maya Q’eqchi’ communities in Guatemala that are fighting to secure legal recognition of their land and resource rights. The Center is helping the communities bring international attention and pressure to bear on Guatemala to stop human rights abuses and improve national legal and policy frameworks to recognize indigenous peoples’ collective rights.