The $100 million gift to Human Rights Watch from billionaire George Soros announced last week will extend the overseas presence of the influential American rights champion and ensure its financial health for years.
But the goal of the gift is more ambitious still: to alter the way human rights are promoted in the 21st century, making rights advocacy less of an exclusively American and European cause.
The donation, the largest single gift ever from the Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist, is premised on the belief that US leadership on human rights has been diminished by a decade of harsh policies in the war on terrorism. Soros said he hopes the money will cultivate a much broader constituency of foreign policymakers and philanthropists who embrace the notion that human rights should be observed universally.
“Unfortunately, we lost the moral high ground during the Bush administration and the Obama administration has not done enough to regain it,” Soros said in an interview. “To be more efficient, Human Rights Watch has to become a truly international organisations.”
The rights group, which covers more than 90 countries from 45 locations, will build its research capacity, adding more than 120 employees to an organisations of 300.
The group will also set up regional headquarters in the capitals of emerging political and economic powers, where leaders have frequently criticised human rights advocacy as a Western tool to impose their will on small countries.
“We need to be able to shape the foreign policies of these emerging powers, much as we have traditionally done with Western powers,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Our aim is to enlist places like Brazil, South Africa, India and Japan, all governments that are democracies.”
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