Grassroots International

Defending Human Rights

Grassroots activated our networks and mobilized resources in response to human rights violations against activists and frontline communities — with important wins in Brazil, Honduras, and beyond.

Whether it’s unjust imprisonment or outright kidnappings and assassinations, social and environmental justice activists are targets of human rights violations around the world. Our grantmaking supports movements to strengthen collective security; campaign against impunity; expand legal service capacity and litigate; monitor and document human rights violations; and promote mental health and healing as human rights. This work over 2021 included some important wins.

In Brazil’s megadiverse Cerrado region, when armed men appeared with huge tractors ready to rip through Afrodescendant Quilombola land, communities rallied to defend their territory. They confiscated the tractors, and, through the Movimento Quilombola do Maranhão (MOQUIBOM), called for international solidarity. The armed men were hired by soybean corporations, whose encroachments were being facilitated through faulty environmental licenses from a state agency. As a Grassroots International grantee, MOQUIBOM reached out to us for support and solidarity. In response, we put out an e-action targeting the state agency in question. The licenses were revoked, in a victory for the communities.

In Honduras, a particularly hostile environment for human rights, we closely accompanied our partners in their struggles against state and corporate impunity. As the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, OFRANEH, pushed for investigation into the 2020 kidnapping and disappearance of four Garifuna (Afro-Indigenous) leaders, we amplified their demands through e-actions and connections with US congressional representatives. We also stood with the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, COPINH, in demanding justice for the assassination of beloved Lenca leader Berta Cáceres, achieving a monumental win with the conviction of one of the corporate heads responsible.

As part of the ongoing targeting of Palestinian human rights defenders by the Israeli government, six prominent Palestinian human rights groups were falsely labeled “terrorist organizations” by the Israeli Minister of Defense in October 2021. This hinders the ability of these groups to receive funding from international sources and sets a dangerous precedent for similar attacks on civil society elsewhere. In response, Grassroots International joined forces with others to take a vocal stand against the designation through a widely publicized sign-on letter from philanthropic groups and donors, and other still-ongoing actions.

We have also been working with partners and allies at the global level – through the international Alliance for Solidarity, Resistance, and Hope – to strengthen response to the increased repression facing those who defend land, water, and other forms of territory.

Our work on human rights is inextricably linked to our work on healing justice, through which we support efforts to address trauma and create spaces for restoration and sanctuary. Our main vehicle is the Martín-Baró Initiative (MBI). In 2021, $108,300 in MBI grants went to 11 groups in Palestine, Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Haiti, Liberia, and the US.