Domestic Human Rights Movement

Beginning in 2005, The Overbrook Foundation assumed a leading role in funding the domestic human rights movement. It joined as a founding partner the U.S. Human Rights Fund to respond to the burgeoning interest among social justice organizations in using universal human rights standards and strategies to advance their social justice advocacy. By invoking universal claims to dignity, equality and opportunity that go beyond civil rights protections contained in statutory law or the Bill of Rights, human rights empower vulnerable communities in the U.S. to define and lead their own campaigns against injustice.

Below are the Foundation’s 2013 grantees working to build a domestic human rights movement.

American Civil Liberties Union

Human Rights Program $60,000 

The ACLU’s human rights work is dedicated to ensuring that the United States is held accountable to international human rights and humanitarian laws and standards. It seeks the domestic incorporation of international human rights laws and principles, their recognition and enforcement by all branches of the U.S. government, and their increased recognition by the public. The Human Rights Program will pursue opportunities to use human rights forums to pressure the U.S. government, such as continued work on several high-profile petitions currently pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and advocacy in advance of the U.N. Human Rights Committee’s upcoming review of U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Its robust agenda will also consist of continued support and engagement with the Human Rights at Home Campaign (HuRAH) to advance domestic accountability for human rights.

Innocence Project

Uniting Science and Law on Behalf of Justice: Policy Program - $30,000 (first payment of a two-year grant)

The Innocence Project (IP) was founded in 1992 to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. Post-conviction DNA testing has exonerated over 300 wrongfully convicted people in the U.S. since 1989, including 18 individuals who had been sentenced to death. The IP was either the attorney-of-record or assisted in the majority of these cases. The pioneering use of DNA technology has also provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but, instead, the result of systemic flaws that can be identified and addressed. In response, the IP developed a national policy program to reform the U.S. criminal justice system and protect innocent people from wrongful arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.

Leadership Conference Education Fund

Human Rights Policy and Education Project - $40,000

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Education Fund’s (LCCHR) goal for its Human Rights Policy and Education Project is to hold the United States government accountable for implementing its international human rights obligations and commitments here at home to protect and advance the civil and human rights of all who live in America. First, it will advocate for and monitor the performance of stronger national institutional structures to implement human rights commitments in the United States. Second, the Fund will build U.S. public understanding of the benefits of ratification of core human rights treaties. Third, LCCHR will expand the constituency of national civil rights and social justice organizations that embrace the human rights framework in their ongoing work for equality and justice.

National Economic and Social Rights Initiative

General Operating Support - $40,000

In partnership with communities, the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) works to build a broad movement for economic and social rights, including health, housing, education and work with dignity. Based on the principle that fundamental human needs create human rights obligations on the part of government and the private sector, NESRI advocates for public policies that guarantee the universal and equitable fulfillment of human rights in the United States. NESRI seeks to give these movements the human rights tools to frame their issues, document the failures of governments to meet their human rights obligations and then advocate for the policy changes that address those failures.

New York Civil Liberties Union

General Operating Support - $35,000 (first payment of a two-year grant)

Founded in 1951 as the New York affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, it’s a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization with eight offices and nearly 50,000 members across the state. Through a combined program of public education, advocacy and litigation, the NYCLU promotes the obligations of the government to act in accordance with the principles of human dignity that are at the core of a free and democratic society. As members of vulnerable populations are most often harmed by discriminatory government policies and practices, the New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation focuses its attention on injustices and inequalities in the areas of Race and Poverty, Reproductive Justice, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights, Liberty and Security, and Immigrants’ Rights. By incorporating the human rights framework in its efforts, it contributes to the development of the domestic human rights field, raises awareness of human rights concepts and identifies new ways to use human rights standards to advance civil liberties.

Public Interest Projects (now NEO Philanthropy)

The Sunrise Initiative for Human Rights in the U.S. - $150,000

Housed at Public Interest Projects, which also housed its predecessor, the U.S. Human Rights Fund, the Sunrise Initiative for Human Rights in the U.S. (Sunrise Initiative) is a partnership of donors that seeks to advance human rights in the United States. Participating donors will pool resources to provide strategic support to domestic organizations working to hold the U.S. accountable for human rights at the grassroots and national levels. This collaborative grantmaking will advance policies and practices to ensure full enjoyment of human rights for all people in the United States.

Rights Working Group

General Operating Support - $25,000

Rights Working Group (RWG) was formed in the aftermath of September 11th to promote and protect the human rights of all people in the United States. RWG mobilizes its diverse constituencies to hold the U.S. government accountable for protecting human rights by focusing on the evolving connections among national security, counter-terrorism, immigration enforcement and criminal justice policies and systems. A coalition of more than 350 local, state and national organizations, RWG works collaboratively to advocate for the civil liberties and human rights of everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, citizenship or immigration status. As a coalition, RWG embraces a theory of change that building strong, cross-constituency alliances will enhance political power to demand progressive policy changes. The coalition uses policy advocacy, community organizing, education and awareness-raising, strategic communications, and international advocacy to advance a shared agenda.

Urban Justice Center

Human Rights Project and Sex Workers Project $40,000

The Urban Justice Center (UJC) serves New York City’s most vulnerable residents through a combination of direct legal service, systemic advocacy, community education and political organizing. The Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center promotes domestic compliance with universally accepted human rights standards. The Sex Workers Project protects and promotes the rights of individuals who engage in sex work by choice, circumstances, or coercion, and people profiled and falsely arrested for prostitution.

US Human Rights Network

USHRN National Conference – Advancing Human Rights 2013 - $30,000

The US Human Rights Network (USHRN) is a national network of organizations and individuals working to strengthen and grow a human rights movement and culture in the United States led by the people most directly impacted by human rights violations. USHRN works to secure dignity and justice for all. Since its founding in 2003, USHRN has been instrumental in providing a unifying human rights framework and platform for shaping activism, connecting struggles, and building collective power and voices of the grassroots to advance human rights at home. USHRN holds a bi-annual conference to convene members and partners to meet, share, and learn from each other on different struggles, build their capacity to use the human rights framework, and identify opportunities for joint action. On December 6-8, 2013, USHRN will hold its fifth bi-annual national conference – Advancing Human Rights 2013: Dignity. Justice. Action. – in Atlanta, GA.

Grantees by Year:  2015  |  2014  |  2013