Non-profit

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch logo (link)
Website:

www.hrw.org/

Location:

NEW YORK, NY

Tax ID:

13-2875808

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $55,633,864
Expenses: $70,558,186
Assets: $211,044,860

Formation:

1988

Founder:

Robert L. Bernstein

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is a left-of-center nonprofit organization that works on human rights issues and organizes multiple sub-groups around the world.

The organization receives the majority of its funding from contributions and grants from private individuals and foundations around the world. HRW lists the left-of-center Ford Foundation as a partner[1] and has received major funding from prominent left-of-center foundations, including the Open Society Foundations, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. [2][3][4]

Human Rights Watch has been the subject of a number of controversies, including accepting a grant from a Saudi Arabian businessman who had been “identified as complicit in labor rights abuse,”[5] and defending an HRW senior military analyst who collected Nazi memorabilia and was assigned to investigate human rights in Israel. [6]

Background

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is a left-of-center nonprofit organization based in New York. HRW has approximately 450 staff members, including lawyers, journalists, and “country experts.” HRW targets governments, businesses, and “armed groups” by investigating their laws, policies, and practices related to human rights. [7]

HRW was formally created in the late 1980s, though it effectively started in 1975 and 1978 when prominent American publisher Robert L. Bernstein founded the Fund for Free Expression and Helsinki Watch respectively. The two groups eventually merged with others to create Human Rights Watch. Helsinki Watch was founded to monitor Soviet Bloc governments to ensure they complied with the human rights policies nominally guaranteed by the 1975 Helsinki Accords. [8]

After the creation of Helsinki Watch, Americas Watch was founded in 1981 to address abuses by government and rebel forces in civil wars across Central America. Three more groups were created after the founding of Americas Watch: Asia Watch in 1985, Africa Watch in 1988, and Middle East Watch in 1989. All of these organizations made up the Watch Committees, which officially changed its name to Human Rights Watch in 1988. [9]

HRW shared the Nobel Peace Prize in for being a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. [10] Despite this award, HRW has been criticized by multiple Nobel Peace Laureates, scholars, and human rights activists, including its founder Robert Bernstein. [11] [12]

Funding

Human Rights Watch receives most of its funding from contributions. HRW reported just under $140 million in total revenue in 2011, with slightly under $135 million coming from contributions and grants. Its total functional expenses for the same year amounted to just under $49 million, giving HRW a net income of approximately $90.5 million for 2011. In the same year, HRW recorded having around $215 million in assets, with $3.2 million in liabilities. [13]

The organization received substantially less in 2012, reporting $73 million in total revenue for the year, $70.5 million of which came in the form of contributions and grants. Its total expenses for 2012 amounted to just over $56 million, giving the organization around $16.8 in net revenue. Its total assets increased to $229.5 million, while its total liabilities increased to $5.6 million for the same year. [14]

HRW noted another drop in funding in 2013 when it received just over $59 million in total revenue for the year, $52 million of which came from contributions. It saw an increase in total functional expenses, which amounted to $63 million, leaving the organization with a net loss of $3.7 million. Despite this, Human Rights Watch maintained $228 million in total assets, with $4.8 million in liabilities for 2013. [15]

Human Rights Watch saw a stagnation of total income in 2015, 2016, and 2017 when it hovered between $65 million and $55 million in total revenue for each of those three years. HRW total expenses climbed to just under $73.5 million in 2015, $76 million in 2016, and $70.5 million in 2017. This left HRW with net losses of approximately $8 million in 2015, $14.8 million in 2016, and just under $15 million in 2017. Despite these losses, the organization still reported $211 million in total assets in 2017. [16]

Human Rights Watch claims that to “ensure [HRW] independence,” it refuses government funding and reviews all donations to ensure they are “consistent with our policies, mission, and values.” [17] The organization receives substantial funding from left-of-center foundations, including the Open Society Foundations, the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In 2010, investor and left-of-center political donor George Soros announced that his private grantmaking foundation, the Open Society Foundations, would be granting $100 million to HRW over ten years. The challenge grant, which expected HRW to “raise an additional $100 million in private contributions to match the gift,” was intended to “support the internationalization of Human Rights Watch” by establishing offices around the world and increasing HRW research. [18]

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (also known as the MacArthur Foundation) was the twelfth largest foundation in the United States in 2014, with total assets over $6 billion. [19] The MacArthur Foundation has awarded $32,858,000 to HRW between 1988 and 201,  including 22 grants for “human rights, population and reproductive health,” and the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Its initial grant of $3.5 million to HRW in 1988 was for the organization “to establish a Middle East Watch and an African Watch.” [20]

The Ford Foundation, one of the largest funders of left-of-center organizations in the United States, has given HRW a large amount of grant funding over many years, though little is known about how much exactly the Foundation has contributed. The Ford Foundation notes that it has funded Human Rights Watch “for decades,” and is listed on the organization’s website as a partner, but the Foundation only lists that it has given eight grants worth a total of $4.5 million to HRW between 2015 and 2018. [21] [22] [23]

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation formed in 2000 by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda. The Gates Foundation is the largest private philanthropic foundation in the world, with a total of nearly $48 billion in assets. [24] The Gates Foundation pledged $200,000 to Human Rights Watch in December 2018 for general support. [25]

HRW received a $15 million challenge grant from Herbert Sandler, the former CEO of Golden West Financial Corporation and World Savings Bank, and his wife Marion Sandler, in 2004. The grant, made through the left-of-center Sandler Foundation, promised funding to HRW on the condition hat HRW raised $6 million annually in matching funds from “first-time donors or existing donors who increase their contributions.” [26]

The New York-based Pershing Square Foundation, co-founded by American hedge fund manager and Democratic donor Bill Ackman, announced a 5-year, $10 million grant to HRW in 2012 to support the organization’s global expansion. [27]

Human Rights Watch has also received over $13.2 million between 1995 and 2015 from the Sigrid Rausing Trust, a grantmaking foundation based in London. [28] HRW has also received rougly $4.1 million from the National Postcode Lottery in the United Kingdom through its Postcode Equality Trust and Postcode Justice Trust. [29] The Dutch Postcode Lottery also pledged approximately $1.6 million to Human Rights Watch in 2020 but has supported the organization since 2009. [30]

Criticism

Human Rights Watch has been criticized for a lack of transparency in its funding. Transparify, a nonprofit organization based in the country of Georgia that graded 200 advocacy groups based on transparency, named the Open Society Foundations as the worst of 43 United States-based groups, despite the Foundation funding Transparify. The grading also noted that HRW listed most of its donors but gave no additional financial information online. [31]

A spokesperson for HRW claimed that more information was available to the public “for the most part,” claiming that anyone can contact the organization and request annual reports containing more financial information. When explaining why HRW does not publish financial information online, the spokesperson said the failure to publish financials was at the behest of major donors. [32] In the Transparify report, Human Rights Watch received a low, 2-star rating. [33]

Controversy

Connections with Saudi Arabia

Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division, visited Saudi Arabia for a fundraising dinner with prominent businessmen in 2009, despite noting that “human rights conditions remain poor in Saudi Arabia“ in HRW’s 2009 report. The report went on to note that “the government systematically suppressed the rights of 14 million Saudi women,” and “freedom of association, expression, and movement,” were serious concerns in the country. [34]

Whitson was also accused of highlighting “HRW’s battles with ‘pro-Israel’ pressure groups in the US, the European Union, and the United Nations,'” during the fundraising dinner. According to an interview with The Atlantic, HRW executive director Ken Roth admitted to attempting to raise funds in Saudi Arabia by advertising an anti-Israel position. [35]

Roth was also subject to controversy in 2020 when the Intercept, a left-wing news organization, reported that Roth was involved in soliciting a donation from a Saudi Arabian businessman who owned a company HRW researchers had documented as committing human rights and labor abuses. [36] According to the Intercept, HRW received a $470,000 grant in 2012 from a U.K.-based charitable foundation headed by Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber, whose company, Jadawel International, had been “identified as complicit in labor rights abuse.” [37]

Despite receiving the grant in 2012, HRW only took action in 2020 when it returned the money it received from Al Jaber. In a statement, HRW noted its “deeply regrettable decision” to accept the donation which included “conditions that the funds not be used to support HRW’s work on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in the Middle East and North Africa.” [38]

In an internal email obtained by the Intercept, co-chairs of HRW’s board of directors Amy Rao and Neil Rimer noted that “Ken Roth, the most senior person at HRW involved with soliciting this pledge, accepts full responsibility for this mistake.” Roth himself said in an email that “a possible gift to HRW’s work” was discussed after “confirmation that the abuses had been resolved” at Jadawal was received by HRW. [39]

Roth was pictured with Al Jaber in 2013 after the businessman had signed an agreement with HRW “to support the work of Human Rights Watch in the area of civil society in the Arab world,”[40] but the Al Jaber Foundation also noted in a separate announcement that its “collaboration” with HRW was “formalized in 2012.” [41]

Nazi Memorabilia

Human Rights Watch senior military analyst Marc Garlasco was suspended in September 2009 after it was discovered that he had a collection of Nazi wartime medals and memorabilia. Garlasco, who led investigations into Israel’s conflicts in Lebanon and Gaza, received full pay during his suspension from HRW. [42]

HRW had originally defended Garlasco before suspending him, claiming that a photograph of him wearing a “sweatshirt with a picture of the Iron Cross and the words in German: ‘The Iron Cross, 1813, 1870, 1914, 1939 and 1957,’ was just “the enthusiasm of a keen collector.” The Iron Cross is a well-known Prussian (later German) military decoration for bravery that was discontinued after World War II due to its association with Naziism. [43] In another website post, written under the moniker “Flak 88” (a possible reference to a World War II-era German anti-tank weapon),  Garlasco wrote, “That is so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!”[44]

Although HRW claimed the suspension was not a disciplinary action, its associate director at the time stated that the organization knew Garlasco collected German and American World War II memorabilia but had “questions” as to whether HRW knew “everything we [HRW] need to know.” [45]

According to The Guardian, a left-wing publication based in the United Kingdom, some staff at Human Rights Watch had expressed concern, noting “there is a legitimate issue” and asking if someone who collects Nazi memorabilia should be investigating human rights in Israel. [46] An HRW spokesperson revealed to the Jerusalem Post that Garlasco had resigned from the organization in February 2010 but refused to comment on the investigation the organization had made regarding Garlasco. [47]

References

  1. “Partners,” Human Rights Watch, May 6, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/about/partners. ^
  2. “Soros and Open Society Foundations Give $100 Million to Human Rights Watch,” Open Society Foundations, accessed March 8, 2021, https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/newsroom/soros-and-open-society-foundations-give-100-million-human-rights-watch. ^
  3. “Human Rights Watch – MacArthur Foundation,” RSS, accessed March 8, 2021, https://www.macfound.org/grantee/human-rights-watch-2172/. ^
  4. “OPP1207319,” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, January 1, 1AD, https://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database/Grants/2018/12/OPP1207319. ^
  5. Alex Emmons, “Human Rights Watch Took Money From Saudi Businessman After Documenting His Coercive Labor Practices,” The Intercept, March 2, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/03/02/human-rights-watch-took-money-from-saudi-businessman-after-documenting-his-coercive-labor-practices/. ^
  6. “Human Rights Watch Investigator Suspended over Nazi Memorabilia,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, September 15, 2009), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/15/human-rights-watch-nazi-israel. ^
  7. Ken Roth, “About Us,” Human Rights Watch, December 2, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/about/about-us. ^
  8. “Human Rights Watch Mourns Founder Robert Bernstein,” Human Rights Watch, October 28, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/05/28/human-rights-watch-mourns-founder-robert-bernstein. ^
  9. “Our History,” Human Rights Watch, March 26, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/our-history#:~:text=Human%20Rights%20Watch%20began%20in,with%20the%201975%20Helsinki%20Accords. ^
  10. “Our History,” Human Rights Watch, March 26, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/our-history#:~:text=Human%20Rights%20Watch%20began%20in,with%20the%201975%20Helsinki%20Accords. ^
  11. “Human Rights Watch Is Roundly Criticized By… Human Rights Activists,” Nobel Peace Summit, accessed March 8, 2021, http://www.nobelpeacesummit.com/human-rights-watch-is-roundly-criticized-by-human-rights-activists/. ^
  12. Robert L. Bernstein, “Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast,” The New York Times (The New York Times, October 20, 2009), https://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/opinion/20bernstein.html. ^
  13. Sisi Wei Mike Tigas, “Human Rights Watch Inc – Nonprofit Explorer,” ProPublica, May 9, 2013, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/132875808. ^
  14. Sisi Wei Mike Tigas, “Human Rights Watch Inc – Nonprofit Explorer,” ProPublica, May 9, 2013, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/132875808. ^
  15. Sisi Wei Mike Tigas, “Human Rights Watch Inc – Nonprofit Explorer,” ProPublica, May 9, 2013, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/132875808. ^
  16. Sisi Wei Mike Tigas, “Human Rights Watch Inc – Nonprofit Explorer,” ProPublica, May 9, 2013, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/132875808. ^
  17. Ken Roth, “About Us,” Human Rights Watch, December 2, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/about/about-us. ^
  18. “Soros and Open Society Foundations Give $100 Million to Human Rights Watch,” Open Society Foundations, accessed March 8, 2021, https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/newsroom/soros-and-open-society-foundations-give-100-million-human-rights-watch. ^
  19. “Foundation Stats: Guide to the Foundation Center’s Research Database – Foundation Center,” Foundation Stats: Guide to the Foundation Center’s Research Database – Foundation Center, accessed March 8, 2021, http://data.foundationcenter.org/#/foundations/all/nationwide/top:assets/list/2014. ^
  20. “Human Rights Watch – MacArthur Foundation,” RSS, accessed March 8, 2021, https://www.macfound.org/grantee/human-rights-watch-2172/. ^
  21. Candid, “Ford Foundation Launches $50 Million Initiative to Strengthen Global Human Rights Movement,” Philanthropy News Digest (PND), July 19, 2012, https://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/ford-foundation-launches-50-million-initiative-to-strengthen-global-human-rights-movement. ^
  22. “Partners,” Human Rights Watch, May 6, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/about/partners. ^
  23. “Human Rights Watch Grants,” Ford Foundation, accessed March 8, 2021, https://www.fordfoundation.org/work/our-grants/grants-database/grants-all?minyear=2015&maxyear=2018&page=0&search=%26SearchText%3DHuman+Rights+Watch. ^
  24. “Gates Foundation 990 Form – 2018,” influencewatch.org, accessed March 8, 2021, https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/02/Gates-Foundation-2018-Form-990.pdf . ^
  25. “OPP1207319,” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, January 1, 1AD, https://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database/Grants/2018/12/OPP1207319. ^
  26. Candid, “Human Rights Watch Receives $15 Million Challenge Grant,” Philanthropy News Digest (PND), December 23, 2004, https://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/human-rights-watch-receives-15-million-challenge-grant. ^
  27. Candid, “Pershing Square Foundation Awards $10 Million to Human Rights Watch,” Philanthropy News Digest (PND), May 28, 2012, https://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/pershing-square-foundation-awards-10-million-to-human-rights-watch. ^
  28. “Human Rights Watch,” Human Rights Watch – Grantees – Welcome To SRT, accessed March 8, 2021, https://www.sigrid-rausing-trust.org/Grantees/Human-Rights-Watch. ^
  29. “Human Rights Watch,” People’s Postcode Lottery, accessed March 8, 2021, https://www.postcodelottery.co.uk/good-causes/charities/human-rights-watch. ^
  30. “Dutch Postcode Lottery Grant to Human Rights Watch,” Amsterdam News, accessed March 8, 2021, https://www.amsterdamnews.net/news/264266886/dutch-postcode-lottery-grant-to-human-rights-watch. ^
  31. Sebastien Malo, “Top U.S. Human Rights Groups Fare Poorly on Openness about Funds, Watchdog Says,” Reuters (Thomson Reuters, June 29, 2016), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-thinktanks-ranking-idUSKCN0ZF2SQ. ^
  32. Sebastien Malo, “Top U.S. Human Rights Groups Fare Poorly on Openness about Funds, Watchdog Says,” Reuters (Thomson Reuters, June 29, 2016), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-thinktanks-ranking-idUSKCN0ZF2SQ. ^
  33. “Transparify Grading – 2016,” OnThinkTanks.org, accessed March 8, 2021, https://onthinktanks.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/OnThinkTanks_TransparifyCharts.pdf . ^
  34. “World Report 2009: Rights Trends in Saudi Arabia,” Human Rights Watch, July 29, 2011, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2009/country-chapters/saudi-arabia. ^
  35. Jeffrey Goldberg, “Fundraising Corruption at Human Rights Watch,” The Atlantic (Atlantic Media Company, July 15, 2009), https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2009/07/fundraising-corruption-at-human-rights-watch/21345/. ^
  36. Alex Emmons, “Human Rights Watch Took Money From Saudi Businessman After Documenting His Coercive Labor Practices,” The Intercept, March 2, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/03/02/human-rights-watch-took-money-from-saudi-businessman-after-documenting-his-coercive-labor-practices/. ^
  37. Alex Emmons, “Human Rights Watch Took Money From Saudi Businessman After Documenting His Coercive Labor Practices,” The Intercept, March 2, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/03/02/human-rights-watch-took-money-from-saudi-businessman-after-documenting-his-coercive-labor-practices/. ^
  38. “Statement on Return of Donation,” Human Rights Watch, October 28, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/02/27/statement-return-donation. ^
  39. Alex Emmons, “Human Rights Watch Took Money From Saudi Businessman After Documenting His Coercive Labor Practices,” The Intercept, March 2, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/03/02/human-rights-watch-took-money-from-saudi-businessman-after-documenting-his-coercive-labor-practices/. ^
  40. “The MBI Al Jaber Foundation Supports the Work of Human Rights Watch in the Arab World,” mbifoundation.com, accessed March 8, 2021, https://mbifoundation.com/news/article.asp?ID=81. ^
  41. “The MBI Al Jaber Foundation Supports the Work of Human Rights Watch in the Arab World,” MBI Al Jaber Foundation, accessed March 8, 2021, https://mbifoundation.com/good-governance/human-rights-watch.asp. ^
  42. “Human Rights Watch Investigator Suspended over Nazi Memorabilia,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, September 15, 2009), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/15/human-rights-watch-nazi-israel. ^
  43. US Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap Jr.The Washington Post and Colin Kahl, “Protecting Civilians: Military Expert Marc Garlasco,” Human Rights Watch, October 28, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/09/11/protecting-civilians-military-expert-marc-garlasco. ^
  44. “Human Rights Watch Investigator Suspended over Nazi Memorabilia,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, September 15, 2009), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/15/human-rights-watch-nazi-israel. ^
  45. “Human Rights Watch Investigator Suspended over Nazi Memorabilia,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, September 15, 2009), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/15/human-rights-watch-nazi-israel. ^
  46. “Human Rights Watch Investigator Suspended over Nazi Memorabilia,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, September 15, 2009), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/15/human-rights-watch-nazi-israel. ^
  47. “After ‘Post’ Query, HRW Says Top Military Analyst Quit,” The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com, accessed March 8, 2021, https://www.jpost.com/International/After-Post-query-HRW-says-top-military-analyst-quit. ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: November 1, 1976

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Jun Form 990 $55,633,864 $70,558,186 $211,044,860 $6,062,961 Y $47,845,601 $21,998 $2,626,545 $2,150,067 PDF
    2016 Jun Form 990 $61,140,659 $76,024,222 $220,621,008 $5,969,108 Y $57,620,234 $24,806 $1,440,826 $2,307,177 PDF
    2015 Jun Form 990 $65,177,056 $73,473,900 $240,275,592 $5,862,895 Y $62,843,469 $34,276 $1,367,711 $2,247,994 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $74,214,883 $66,646,014 $246,423,495 $4,819,387 Y $68,221,336 $33,093 $996,187 $1,932,042 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990 $59,342,193 $63,056,539 $228,020,161 $4,873,585 Y $52,730,595 $40,522 $564,029 $1,828,235 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $73,210,162 $56,398,469 $229,511,883 $5,690,745 Y $70,520,001 $67,549 $209,260 $1,661,101 PDF
    2011 Jun Form 990 $139,654,922 $48,997,544 $215,273,019 $3,239,573 Y $134,174,146 $62,246 $393,700 $1,383,575 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Human Rights Watch

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