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 2019 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 (second 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.


Journalists' Self-Protection Hub - $30,000

Campaña Global por la Libertad de Expresión A19, A.C. (ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America) works to promote and protect the rights to freedom of expression and information in the region through five programmatic pillars: Transparency, Civic Space, Digital, Protection and Media. ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America works to build the capacity of journalists to protect themselves through the development and dissemination of relevant print and online materials.

Committee to Protect Journalists

Press Freedom in the Americas - $25,000 (second 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. 

The Environmental Defender Law Center

General Operating Support - $80,000 (first payment in 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 identifies cases and enlists top lawyers to help communities stop unwanted resource development projects; bring precedent-setting claims against domestic and multinational corporations for past and threatened harms; and defend persecuted environmental defenders. EDLC makes grants to fund litigation costs, offers advice, and provides scientific and other resources to environmental defenders and their lawyers.

Indian Law Resource Center

Protecting Maya Q’eqchi’ Land and Resource Rights - $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; 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.


Enhancing Women’s Leadership in Grassroots Organizations of Honduras - $25,000

JASS believes that women who are most affected by the political, economic, environmental and health crises reverberating across the world are on the frontlines of change.  While they rarely have a seat at the decision-making table, they are organizing their communities, developing solutions and promoting justice—often at great risk for going against the grain. JASS Mesoamerica strengthens women’s leadership and organizing capacity so that grassroots women movements are safer, stronger and more effective in the region.

Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative

Feminist Holistic Protection for Women Human Rights Defenders in Mesoamerica - $25,000

The Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative (IM-Defensoras) is a local to regional alliance of organizations and networks supporting Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) in Mexico and five Central American countries. In this region gripped by violence and gender discrimination, IM-Defensoras works to strengthen regional strategies and national WHRD networks with gender sensitive holistic resources to enhance Mesoamerican WHRDs’ self-care, protection and safety.  It is the first large scale collective effort to prevent, document, denounce and publicize acts of violence against WHRDs in the region. This support helps to sustain the human rights work of Mesoamerican WHRDs in conditions of security, well being, resilience and autonomy.

 Urgent Action Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean

Rapid Response Support for Women Human Rights Defenders in Latin America and the Caribbean - $50,000 (first payment in a two-year grant)

Urgent Action Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean (UAF-LAC) is a feminist fund that contributes to the sustainability and strengthening of activists and their movements.  It provides rapid and flexible support in moments of high risk or opportunities for the advancement or defense of women's rights in the Latin American and Caribbean region. UAF-LAC puts care and holistic feminist protection at the center of its work. It envisions a region where activists are safer; their work is more sustainable and effective; they have access to flexible and strategic funds; and their voices and demands are heeded in the socio-political arena.

Grantees by Year:  2018  |  2017  |  2016  |  2015