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Human Rights Charities -- What's the Difference?

   Apr 14, 2015

Human rights are the inalienable rights of every human being regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, or nationality. Due to the wide range of objectives that fall under the definition of human rights, many human rights charities exist, and donors may have a hard time choosing a charity that best suits their giving intentions. A charity can cover human rights as a whole or can focus on a specific human rights issue such as: providing education, preventing torture or upholding the rights of a specific culture. For more information about universal human rights check out the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

CharityWatch rates organizations with broad-scope missions as well as those that focus on a specific human rights issue. Two of the largest and most well known charities, Amnesty International (Amnesty) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) are rated by CharityWatch, as are Fund for Global Human Rights (The Fund) and Human Rights First (HRF). All four of these charities have similar missions, but use different methodologies through which to achieve them.

Amnesty International’s mission is to promote universal human rights for all by uniting people internationally through membership, grassroots campaigns and casework. Amnesty also researches and advocates for human rights issues to push for protection and promotion by governments and non-governmental organizations. 

Amnesty International Victory: Maryland Abolishes the Death Penalty

Amnesty has played a central role in eliminating the death penalty worldwide. Amnesty worked for decades to abolish the death penalty in Maryland and in March 2013 was successful. Amnesty accomplished this goal through grassroots campaigns and partnerships with local death penalty repeal groups. Amnesty members worked to educate the public about death penalty statistics and encouraged Maryland citizens to contact Governor Martin O’Malley.

Human Rights First is an action- and advocacy-focused human rights charity that challenges the United States to be a leader in protecting and promoting human rights worldwide.  HRF’s methods include building coalitions and using American influence to secure human rights.

Human Rights First Victory: Releasing Senate Torture Report

Human Rights First assisted in securing the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program (the Senate Torture report) by creating a coalition of retired military generals, urging senators to release the document, securing support from Vice President Joe Biden, mobilizing US citizens, writing op-eds, letters to the editor and fact sheets, and producing videos and print ads. The Senate Torture report was released in December 2014. 

Human Rights Watch’s mission is to defend universal human rights by investigating human rights abuses and publishing reports. Through HRW’s detailed reports the group is able to widely expose the facts of human rights abuses and pressure perpetrators to stop violating rights. Additionally, HRW is able to influence policy, law and opinion because governments and the media frequently reference HRW research.

Human Rights Watch Victory: California no longer sentences minors to “life without parole”

In 2004, Human Rights Watch began to investigate criminal justice policies regarding minors, particularly in California, which had some of the harshest policies regarding child offenders. Since 2008, HRW has published several reports detailing the injustice of “life without parole” sentences to minors, produced two films, and mobilized thousands of individuals and organizations. Due in part to HRW’s work, the governor of California signed into law a bill that ends “life without parole” for juvenile offenders.

Fund for Global Human Rights supports local human rights defenders in fulfilling their mission to defend human rights. The Fund identifies local individuals or groups who are fighting for human rights and provides them with expertise and financial assistance.

Fund for Global Human Rights Victory: Tunisian Constitutional Protection for Women

Fund for Global Human Rights funded several local Tunisian organizations that were able to successfully campaign to add a clause to the new constitution that protects women from gender-based violence and guarantees equal rights.

In order to decide which human rights charity to support, examine which approaches you would most like to support. While all four groups have programs overlapping with the others, they each have developed varied methods of combating human rights abuses. If you are passionate about campaigns and advocacy, consider Amnesty International or Human Rights First. If you’d like to support a charity that assists local groups or individuals, consider Fund for Global Human Rights. If you are interested in investigation, research and policy, consider Human Rights Watch.

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