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Soros and Open Society Foundations Give $100 Million to Human Rights Watch

George Soros today announced that his Open Society Foundations will give a challenge grant of $100 million over 10 years to Human Rights Watch. The grant will be used to expand Human Rights Watch’s global presence to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights around the world.

The $100 million is the biggest gift Human Rights Watch has received. In 2010, the Open Society Foundations donated about $800 million to support human rights, access to justice, and public health.

“Human Rights Watch is one of the most effective organizations I support,” said Soros, founder and chair of the Open Society Foundations. “Human rights underpin our greatest aspirations: they’re at the heart of open societies.”

The grant challenges Human Rights Watch to raise an additional $100 million in private contributions to match the gift. It is intended to support the internationalization of Human Rights Watch, enabling it to establish advocacy offices in key regional capitals and to strengthen research on countries of concern. Human Rights Watch plans especially to increase its capacity to influence emerging powers in the global South to push a pro-human rights agenda.

“Human Rights Watch can have even greater impact by being genuinely international in scope,” Soros said. “Human Rights Watch must be present in capitals around the globe, addressing local issues, allied with local rights groups and engaging with local government officials. In five years’ time it aims to have as much as half its income and a majority of its board members come from outside the United States.”

With a staff of almost 300 addressing human rights conditions in nearly 90 countries, Human Rights Watch publishes around 100 reports and several hundred news releases each year. By basing more researchers and advocates in key countries, Human Rights Watch will be better placed to engage with government officials, journalists, and civil society and better able to secure positive change.

“In an increasingly multi-polar world, we must ensure that Human Rights Watch’s message resonates in the most influential capitals around the globe,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Ending serious abuses requires generating pressure from any government with clout, including emerging powers in the global South.”

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