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 Mexico and Central America. 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 2018 grantees supporting human rights defenders at risk in Mesoamerica.

American Jewish World Service

Promoting Human Rights for Marginalized People in Mesoamerica, with a Special Focus on Human Rights Defenders - $75,000 (first payment of a three-year grant)

American Jewish World Service provides technical and financial support to grassroots organizations and larger strategic allies working in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico to promote the rights of marginalized people across its grantmaking issue areas: civil and political rights; land, water and climate justice; and sexual health and rights. A critical aspect of this support is promoting the protection and security of human rights defenders.

ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America

 #RompeElMiedo Network - Elections 2018 - $25,000

ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America promotes and defends the progressive advancement of the rights of freedom of expression and access to information for all people. ARTICLE 19, together with allied organizations, has created the #RompeElMiedo Network, an innovative alliance to monitor and protect journalists, human rights defenders and other social communicators, who cover important events such as street demonstrations and elections. ARTICLE 19 will develop a national #RompeElMiedo Network to protect the flow of information during the general election period in Mexico in 2018, avoiding or mitigating the effects of aggressions against journalists, human rights defenders and election observers, as well as, countering disinformation campaigns to inhibit the right to exercise freedom of expression and the right to vote.

Center for Justice and International Law

General Operating Support - $40,000 (second payment of a two-year grant)

The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization with a mission of defending and promoting human rights in the Americas and a vision of a fully democratic hemisphere in which the rights of all people are guaranteed and respected. It was founded in 1991 by a group of prominent Latin American human rights defenders who wanted to improve the regional human rights situation using international law, international human rights standards, and the Inter-American Human Rights System (IAHRS).

Committee to Protect Journalists

Press Freedom in the Americas - $25,000 (first payment of a two-year grant)

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. It defends the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. When press freedom violations occur, CPJ mobilizes a network of correspondents who report and act on behalf of those targeted. CPJ ensures the free flow of news and commentary by taking action wherever journalists are attacked, imprisoned, killed, kidnapped, threatened, censored, or harassed. 

Environmental Defender Law Center

General Operating Support - $40,000 (third 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.   

Front Line USA

Protection Support for Human Rights Defenders in Latin America - $50,000 (first payment of a three-year grant)

Front Line USA Foundation provides support for the protection of human rights defenders at risk. This project is focused on providing rapid and practical support to human rights defenders in Latin America who are at risk as result of their work.

Fund for Global Human Rights

Protecting Human Rights Defenders in Honduras - $75,000

The Fund for Global Human Rights supports front-line human rights defenders in countries around the world, many of whom face dire risks in response to their efforts. In Honduras, the already significant risks these activists faced were intensified in the wake of contested elections in November 2017. To respond to the elevated threat, the Fund developed a multi-pronged initiative to help its local partners develop effective security measures and take steps to ensure that they can carry out their work safely as well as effectively.

Indian Law Resource Center

Protecting Maya Q’eqchi’ Land and Resource Rights - $35,000 (first 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; to combat racism and oppression; to achieve sustainable economic development and genuine self-government; and to realize their other 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.

Just Associates

Strengthening the Sustainability of Women Human Rights Defenders & Organizations in Honduras - $40,000

Just Associates (JASS) works with Mesoamerican Initiative partners and participating women defenders to create an enabling environment that allows for the sustainability and protection of women defenders in Honduras, their human rights work, and the networks/organizations that support them. JASS strengthens the voice, visibility and collective organizing power of women to promote democracy and justice, and ensure the safety and wellbeing of women activists in risky contexts. The Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative is a regional collaboration that generates data and analysis to raise awareness about the risks and gendered violence faced by women human rights defenders and has developed a range of strategies to reduce risks and promote holistic protection, from the creation of national networks to trainings and self-care programs.

Urgent Action Fund of Latin America for Women’s Human Rights

Integral Approach to Supporting WHRDs: Rapid Response Grantmaking, Training, Networking and Advocacy - $50,000 (third payment of a three-year grant)

The Urgent Action Fund of Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean (UAF-LA) is a feminist, non-profit organization that promotes and defends the Human Rights of women. UAF-LA invests in increasing the capacity of activists and movements and their resilience through rapid response grantmaking, integral protection, alliance building and collective learning opportunities. This work permits them to persevere under threat and to seize upon quickly unfolding moments of opportunity to change law, policy and public opinion.


General Operating Support - Latin America and the Caribbean - $50,000 (second payment of a three-year grant)

For two decades, WITNESS has empowered human rights defenders to use video to expose the truth and catalyze human rights change. Today, as an ever-increasing number and diversity of people in Latin America turn to video, technology, and storytelling as tools for civic participation and change, WITNESS sees a powerful opportunity to ensure that millions of people can use video safely, ethically, and effectively to promote their advocacy efforts. Its allies include human rights NGOs with decades of experience, newly organized movements of video activists, lawyers, grassroots community organizers, and ordinary citizens joining human rights campaigns for the first time.

Grantees by Year: 2019 |  2018  |  2017  |  2016  |  2015