Big Changes or Not, Ford is Keeping an Eye on Rights Violations in Extractive Industries

By now, we’ve all heard of the big changes that are coming down the pipeline at the Ford Foundation. The short version of the story is that Ford is streamlining its grantmaking focus to six program areas with the overall mission of fighting global inequality in all of its forms. It's still unclear exactly what program cuts are forthcoming. But in recent years, the foundation has awarded grants out of eight major issue areas comprising 36 initiatives, so there’s a good chance something big will fall by the wayside. 

Related: About Those “Big Changes” at the Ford Foundation

It's hard to imagine that Ford would get rid of its human rights funding, and in fact, the foundation's president, Darren Walker, said of the six new program areas that "our commitment to human rights and human dignity will be at the center of all of them." 

As we near the fourth quarter of the year, Ford continues to make some relatively large human rights grants. For example, its recent $800,000 give to Justiça Global, a group it's been supporting for a number of years. 

A Brazil-based NGO that fights for the protection of the rights of marginalized people, Justiça Global will use its latest Ford grant for the development and implementation of monitoring strategies related to human rights violations in extractive industries, as well as those connected to the 2016 Olympic Games. Ford gave a grant to Justiça Global for similar work last year. 

It could be argued that there are few industries in which human rights violations are as heavily publicized as those of the extractive industries. The oil, gas, and mining industries are central to the economic landscapes in a number of developing countries. However, as some of these countries grow economically, their progress in terms of human development often remains miserably low. For example, oil-rich Angola experienced an economic growth rate averaging around 17 percent from 2005 to 2010. However, the country only scores a .49 on the UNDPs Human Development Index. (The HDI is rated on scale from 0 to 1.)

The gross inequities and abuses that often surround extractive industries have long been a focus of foundations. The Open Society Foundations, in particular, has funded much work in this area. But Ford money has also gone to groups concerned with these problems.