Every two years, members of the International Human Rights Funders Group and the Peace and Security Funders Group meet in Washington DC for a Federal Policy Briefing. This short conference is designed to help donors discuss how their funding priorities are affected by changes in federal government and allow them to speak directly with members of Congress who are supportive of human rights and peace and security issues.
This April, donors met to gain a deeper understanding of how the political context of their work has changed as a result of the outcomes of 2010 mid-term elections in the US, and to strategize around responses to new challenges such as the nuclear situation in Japan and the popular uprisings in the Middle East. Specific session topics included: confronting violent extremism; ending military involvement in Afghanistan; promoting peace-building and military withdrawal; unpacking budget reform and national security; and ensuring government accountability in national security and human rights policy-making.
Key speakers included high-ranking officials from the Department of State and leading progressive members of the US Congress. NGO panellists included experts on security, government accountability and transparency, government spending, tax policy, racial profiling and individual privacy. Across the spectrum of participants, it was generally agreed that we did not make the most of the opportunities afforded by the Obama administration when it was new, and have not sustained sufficient pressure to advance the changes we had been hoping for just over two years ago.
Nonetheless, as witnesses to the profound democratic changes in the Middle East and continued struggles towards democracy around the world, we agreed that there was reason for hope and that we must continue to support grantees’ efforts to hold governments accountable on all levels. We must also be willing to assess and address our own failings in moving security and human rights agendas forward, and contribute to more collaborative strategies as the group of progressive funders shrinks due to shifting priorities and economic decline.
Hilda Vega is senior advisor at Strategic Philanthropy, Ltd. Email firstname.lastname@example.org