Without a doubt, 2017 brought tremendous challenges to people around the world – and also witnessed amazing feats of resilience, resistance and resolve. Together with our global partners and committed US-based supporters, Grassroots International celebrates many remarkable accomplishments.
Increased Funding of Frontline Movements
In 2017, Grassroots International significantly expanded its financial support for our partners on the frontlines of creating economic and social justice, advancing human rights and developing grassroots climate solutions – all fueled by an outpouring of generosity and strategic investment from donors and funders. Here are just a few of the highlights:
- Due to a very successful year, Grassroots International was able to award 151 grants, totaling more than $2.7 million – up from $1 million last year.
- Our two-year Climate Justice Initiative (CJI) boosted efforts by key social movements on the frontlines of the struggle to stop the worst impacts of climate change in the Global South and develop innovative adaptation strategies. Surpassing our original goal by nearly 50%, we raised over $570,000 to support 23 climate justice organizations working on a variety of approaches including: promoting agroecological farming, stopping planet-warming mega-projects, and protecting riverways and water.
- Thanks to the generosity of some anonymous donors, Grassroots provided $1.5 million to support global pleasant solidarity movements, including food sovereignty and agroecology training, organizing schools and learning exchanges, particularly in Brazil. This is all the more essential as Brazilian social movements – including the Landless Workers Movement – face threats, violence and criminalization at the hands of the right-wing government that took over through what amounts to an administrative coup.
- Grassroots International helped launch an ambitious new collaborative over the last year with ally organizations, Thousand Currents, Global Greengrants, and Urgent Action Fund. The result is the Grassroots Climate Solutions Fund, which has already raised more than $310,000 for climate justice. The goal is to deploy $10-15 million over the next 3-5 years.
Grassroots International Responds to Crises with Just Solutions
Both natural and human-made crises created relentless challenges throughout 2017. From storms to droughts, military actions to electoral fraud, communities faced tremendous hardships and challenges. And Grassroots International was there to stand in solidarity and provide essential support during the first days of Hurricanes Maria and Harvey, the aftermath of police actions in Honduras and Palestine, and organizing for justice and human rights throughout the world. Some highlights:
- In the wake of the brutal assassination of Honduran environmental leader Berta Cáceres in 2016, and under international pressure, including efforts by Grassroots International and many others, major funders of the Agua Zarca dam withdrew $44 million in funding of the controversial project. FMO, a Dutch development financier, decided to “suspend all activities in Honduras, effective immediately.” Finnfund, the second European financier involved in Agua Zarca, suspended its support as well. With the withdrawal of FMO and Finnfund, the pressure is on the Central-American Bank for Economic Integration to suspend all support for Agua Zarca. Grassroots supported the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the Indigenous organization which Berta Cáceres lead in the fight to stop the construction of the dam.
- In the wake of the devastation of the hurricanes Maria and Harvey sweeping through the Caribbean, and the earthquake in Mexico, Grassroots International raised over $70,000 for relief and long-term redevelopment. In Haiti, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the funds raised were used to relaunch food production through the provision of seeds, farming supplies, instruction in agroecological farming, and boosting the climate resilience of farmers in the affected areas.
- Through the efforts of our partner Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), 2,924 Palestinians received legal assistance to address violations of their human rights. 600 received positive responses. 44 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons also received assistance, and legal files were developed and followed by PCHR on behalf of 1080 victims of human rights abuses. Three submissions were presented to the International Criminal Court prosecutor for investigations into Israeli crimes committed in the occupied territories since the June 2014 attack.
- Last year in Haiti, Grassroots International supported a reforestation project resulting in the planting and distribution of 50,800 trees including fruit trees. In a country where over 98% of the land has been deforested, reforesting is a key undertaking for the very survival of the Haitian people. Reforesting rebuilds the degraded environment, builds climate resiliency, and advances food sovereignty. Through radio program broadcasts, thousands of farmers are being trained in adaptation strategies and interventions in relation to the climate crisis.
- The Niger Delta in Nigeria has acquired the dubious record of being one of the most polluted places on the planet due to serial oil spills and unmitigated gas flaring. Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), a CJI grantee, recently finished a very successful activist training program, ushering in a new generation of women water and land protectors who are now deploying across the region of Egiland. HOMEF was also a major force behind the recent creation of a national taskforce focused on reducing pollution by oil companies and restoring communities’ livelihoods and environments.
Spreading the Word, Building International Solidarity
In addition to a robust grantmaking program, Grassroots International engages in advocacy and education to advance human rights and community-led development efforts. Thanks to the success of the Climate Justice Initiative as well as the powerful engagement of our 25,000 online activist network, Grassroots was able to achieve these results:
Grassroots International and the Boston Public Library co-hosted the People’s Climate Justice Forum. Hundreds filled the standing-room-only event that featured international environmental, human rights and climate justice movement leaders including: Naomi Klein (journalist and author); Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network); Carlos Marentes, Sr. (La Via Campesina); and Jadi Percassi (Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement).
- Grassroots International has been working to expand agroecological farming globally through supporting the promotion of seed saving, the preservation and expansion of heirloom varieties, and learning exchanges. An obscure term when Grassroots International first starting highlighting agroecology a decade ago, the approach has since gained traction around the planet. Through agroecological techniques, Grassroots’ partner the Landless Workers Movement (MST) has become the largest producer of organic rice in Latin America, producing 27,000 tons of rice over the last year.
- Chung-Wha Hong, our Executive Director, joined the Board of Directors of the influential international funding network, EDGE Funders. She also co-chaired the steering committee of the EDGE conference in Barcelona earlier this year as EDGE made a major expansion to the international level.
- Grassroots joined the AgroEcology Fund which is directing sizeable investments towards spreading and growing the agroecology movement around the planet.
- As part of Grassroots’ effort to strengthen the bonds of international solidarity, we brought five partners from Honduras and Brazil to the US to tour cities where they could tell their stories, speak with the media, make connections with US allies and supporters, and present in front of representatives of hundreds of organizations at networking conferences and community events.
- Grassroots staff attended the international conference of the global farmer’s movement, La Via Campesina, in the Basque Country (Europe). Our staff also participated in an international encounter of the Brazilian dam resistance powerhouse movement, MAB.
- Jovanna Garcia Soto, GRI’s Solidarity Program Officer for Latin America, gave a plenary talk at the annual Human Rights Funding Network conference in New York on the collective rights of land and water defenders. Later at a conference in South Africa, she gave a plenary talk to over 50 representatives of foundations, movements, and non-profit organizations from around the world on strengthening indigenous and family farmers’ rights.
- We participated (and helped fund) our biggest learning exchange ever this past summer in Chiapas, Mexico, featuring 120 participants from 11 countries.
- With so much work to do, Grassroots was excited to expand our team to increase our ability to do the important work at hand.