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Newsroom Fact sheet

The Open Society Foundations in France

With an annual budget in 2018 of just over $1 billion, the Open Society Foundations are, collectively, the world’s largest private funder of groups that work for human rights, justice, and democracy around the world, working through more than 20 national and regional foundations.

Just under ten percent of our funding goes to Europe. In Western Europe, in countries where democratic traditions are well established, our work has focused on helping people and governments find solutions to the social, economic, and political challenges of a rapidly changing, globalized world. 

The Open Society Foundations first began work in France in the early 2000s, working with the country’s Muslim community as part of a wider effort to contribute positively to European integration policies. In 2007, our legal experts developed a ground-breaking study with the National Center for Scientific Research on racially biased police stops at railway stations around Paris. Since then, Open Society has continued to support litigation and community organizing aimed at ending these practices, which have continued to blight relations between the French police and minority communities. 

More broadly, Open Society has supported both established and traditional human rights groups, such as La Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH), and the Observatoire International des Prisons, and innovative new efforts to increase citizen engagement in politics, such as L’Accélérateur de la Mobilisation, an online platform that seeks to promote citizen engagement in policymaking. As elsewhere in Europe, Open Society supports advocates working on behalf of France’s Roma community, as well as those who are fighting against the violence and hatred aimed at minority communities.

Nine Facts about Europe and the Open Society Foundations 

  1. Our efforts to defend civil liberties across Europe include supporting dozens of national human rights watchdogs and the Berlin-based Civil Liberties Union for Europe, which seeks to give a unified voice to its national member organizations in European debates.
  2. We support the participation of parents and professionals in building more inclusive and effective systems for early childhood care and for schooling. 
  3. Open Society has supported the creation of the European Implementation Network, an independent, Strasbourg-based group that provides independent monitoring of the implementation by national governments of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
  4. We have worked with police forces in cities in Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom on efforts to eliminate racially-biased identity checks, searches, and stops.
  5. We provide support for local groups who work with refugee and migrant communities to support their successful integration in their host countries.
  6. Our efforts to fight discrimination have included supporting groups that monitor racist attacks in Italy and Greece, and supporting campaigns to uphold women’s rights and gender equality from Ireland to Poland.
  7. Our Mental Health Initiative has supported successful efforts in Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, and elsewhere to reform the care of people with mental disabilities—by moving away from long-term institutional confinement in favor of supportive community living.
  8. We support independent journalists, human rights defenders, whistleblowers, and anticorruption campaigners to upgrade their information technology and physical security, to respond to legal challenges, and to promote fact-based public debate.
  9. The Open Society Foundations joined the German government and the Council of Europe to launch the Berlin-based European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture in 2017, the first arts institution of its kind focused on the work and history of Roma artists.


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