Universal values, foreign money: funding local human rights organizations in the global south

James Ron, Archana Pandya, David Crow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Local human rights organizations (LHROs) are key domestic and transnational actors, modifying, diffusing, and promoting liberal norms; mobilizing citizens; networking with the media and activists; and pressuring governments to implement international commitments. These groups, however, are reliant on international funds. This makes sense in politically repressive environments, where potential donors fear government retaliation, but is puzzling elsewhere. We interviewed 263 LHRO leaders and key informants from 60 countries, and conducted statistically representative surveys of 6180 respondents in India, Mexico, Morocco, and Nigeria. Based on these data, we believe LHRO funding in non-repressive environments is shaped by philanthropic logics of appropriateness. In the late 1990s, transnational activists successfully mainstreamed human rights throughout the international donor assistance community, freeing up development money for LHROs. Domestic activists in the global South have not promoted similar philanthropic transformations at home, where charitable giving still focuses on traditional institutions. Instead, domestic rights activists have followed the path of least resistance toward international aid, a logic of outcomes produced by variations in global logics of (philanthropic) appropriateness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-64
Number of pages36
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research for this article was supported by the Stassen Chair of International Affairs at the University of Minnesota; the Americas and the World Survey project at CIDE, Mexico City; CVOTER in India; the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in Canada; and the International Development Research Centre in Canada. We are deeply grateful to Kathleen Rodgers, Maria Derks, Andrew Dawson, Philip Martin, Ghita Benessahraoui, Sarah Peek, Laura Sparling, Sarah Wicks, Maya Dafinova, Cory Leblanc, Shannon Kindornay, Shannon Golden, Jackie Aman, Rebecca Blumenshine, Hunter Gordon, Benjamin Sherwood, and Xiaoyun Shen for their work on this project. We are also grateful for comments by Aaron Back; Sarah Mendelson; Azeen Salimi; and three anonymous reviewers at RIPE.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Taylor & Francis.


  • funding for civil society
  • human rights
  • human rights organizations
  • international aid
  • international law
  • local NGOs
  • norms
  • resource mobilization
  • surveys


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