NORTHERN IRELAND HUMAN RIGHTS FUND
The Atlantic Philanthropies and The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland have come together to establish a £10m, 10 year, dedicated fund to support 4 key organisations committed to realising the vision of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the principles of democracy, equality, rights and mutual understanding which underpinned it.
Working together from a Belfast based hub, the organisations will also challenge the threat to human rights posed by Brexit, embed and encourage a culture of rights and contribute to building a fair society based on equality and respect, as well as sharing Northern Ireland’s lessons on peacebuilding internationally.
Of the £10 million needed for this spend-down fund, almost £9 million has been committed including significant gifts from Oak Foundation, Porticus and The Sigrid Rausing Trust. Our challenge now is to raise the remaining £1 million.
Every £1 raised will be matched £ for £ by The Atlantic Philanthropies.
Why the Fund is needed
Northern Ireland has known recurring conflict and violence since its very creation. Human rights violations, inequality and sectarianism lay at the heart of the conflict, and were at the heart of its resolution in the historic 1998 Belfast/ Good Friday Agreement. History shows that human rights and peacebuilding go hand in hand, so a human rights-based approach, backed up by appropriate legislation and institutions, was not just the right thing to do, it was the effective thing to do.
Nearly 20 years on, Northern Ireland has come a long way but it has been a difficult journey that is not yet finished. A number of important, outstanding human rights and equality commitments made in the Agreement have not yet been delivered, civil and political unrest continues, social and economic inequality is deepening and politicians cannot agree on how to deal with the legacy of the conflict.
Brexit increases the pressure still further, putting in jeopardy the commitment made in the Good Friday Agreement to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into Northern Ireland Law and all the protections it provides.
Against this background, The Atlantic Philanthropies and The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland established the Northern Ireland Human Rights Fund at a time when peace, equality and human rights are under increasing pressure.
Who will benefit?
The Fund will support and sustain a new collaboration of four well-established and respected human rights organisations.
All four have a track record of working to build a just society based on the principles of equality and respect and have played a key role in helping to realise the commitments in the Good Friday Agreement thus far.
Through the Fund, the four distinct, but complementary, organisations have come together in a new Belfast based Human Rights ‘Hub’ to realise the vision of the Good Friday Agreement
The difference the fund will make
Ten years from now, Northern Ireland should look very different thanks to the Fund. There will be a much clearer understanding of the central role human rights and equality play in resolving conflicts, rights enshrined in EU legislation will still be enforced and a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland will be in place.
People in Northern Ireland will have learnt how to use their rights to push for change within their communities. Public services, including housing and health, will be allocated fairly and effectively and voluntary and community organisations will be using human rights standards to push for change within their communities of interest. The outstanding issues of the past will have been addressed and tensions reduced. Northern Ireland will have a strong, independent civil society holding Government to account.
And other countries emerging from conflict will have used lessons learnt in Northern Ireland to shape their future.
What we will do
Each of the four organisations has drawn up detailed plans for the first 3 years which play to each organisation’s particular strengths and show clear progress towards the 10 year goals. At the same time we have identified priority areas bringing the organisations together in coordinated action, beginning with a plan to challenge the effects of Brexit on human rights protections and the peace settlement in Northern Ireland.
To move their plans forward, the organisations will use a variety of techniques: from holding conferences to highlight specific issues, to convening meetings with decision makers and briefings for Ministers; from mobilising communities to take a stand, to canvassing civil society organisations; from publishing and disseminating research, to galvanising public support through social media; from running training events to staging the Northern Ireland Human Rights Festival; from organising study trips for international peace makers, to taking public interest litigation cases.