Rights Action

Non profit organization

Rights Action works in Honduras and Guatemala in support of community-based land, environmental and human rights defenders resisting harms and (often deadly) violence caused by different sectors of the global economy: mining and hydro-electric dams; for-export production of African palm, sugarcane and bananas; tourism and the ‘sweatshop’ garment industry.

Indigenous peoples
Education, Inclusion/Special needs, Human Rights, Justice, Health, Environment, Housing, Civil participitation and policy, Government (Local or international), Emergency relief
Izabal, Santa Rosa, Baja Verapaz

Organizational contacts & locations

Contacts
Grahame Russell
Director
(+1) 416 807-4436
Camila Rich
Communications Assistant
(+1) 860 595-9208

Mission, vision & values

Mission

We directly fund community human rights, land and environmental defense organizations in Guatemala and Honduras; emergency response work; and justice struggles.

We expose and work to hold accountable the U.S. and Canadian governments, companies and investors, and other international actors (World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, etc.) that help cause and profit from repression and human rights violations, violent evictions and environmental harms.

Vision

Our vision is a global human order without massive wealth, power, and control disparities. Where all people, specifically Indigenous Peoples, have equitable access to the resources necessary for a healthy and dignified life (clean environment, financial stability, health care, etc.), equal representation, and live free of violence, repression and poverty.
 

Values
We value social justice and equity, Indigenous Peoples' rights (world wide), North American corporate accountability, environmental protection, solidarity and informed activism, and action.

Products, services, and programs

Services

Rights Action directly funds community organizations providing ad hoc services in their communities, such as: educational services, health services, legal services, disability access services, land and home buying/constructing services, etc. Our partner groups plan and carry out their own development projects, their own land, environmental and human rights defense struggles, their own emergency relief projects.

Programs

We support our partner groups in Guatemala who plan and carry out their own development projects, their own land, environmental and human rights defense struggles, and their own emergency relief projects.

Organizational detail

Founded: 
1995
Number of employees: 
0-10
Funding: 
Private donations
Primary issue(s) / need(s) addressed

Rights Action – with tax-charitable legal status in the US and Canada - has worked in Guatemala (and Honduras) for over 25 years. Since 1995, Rights Action has been funding and supporting community-led land, human rights, and environmental defense struggles, and work and struggle for truth and justice. Over the years Rights Action has built trusting relations with human rights, environment, and land defender experts with whom we continually discuss the underlying issues.

A majority of projects Rights Action supports are community-led defense struggles led by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who are courageously resisting illegal, corrupt, and oftentimes violent efforts to dispossess people and communities of their lands for the purpose of large-scale economic interests.

These large-scaled economic interests are owned and operated principally by transnational companies, investors and banks, often in partnership with the Guatemalan economic, political, and military elites. These economic interests are primarily in the sectors of: mining, hydro-electric dams, tourism, and the production (on Guatemala’s richest lands) of for-export consumer goods (bananas, pineapples, African palm, sugar-cane, etc).

This local-to-global economic model is fully supported and backed by the governments of Guatemala, the US and Canada, as well as the World Bank, IMF and Inter-American Development Bank. The people and communities that Rights Action funds and works with are taking on the vested interests of all of these national and international actors and governments.

Rights Action also supports a number of more traditional community development projects – education scholarships and schools, potable water and irrigation projects, etc.

In times of emergencies, Rights Action also provides relief funds to victims of climate heating emergencies, pandemics and human rights violations and political repression.

Impact, adaptations & objectives

Impact to date

Defining positive impacts in these types of struggles is difficult. Many community defenders we support have been/are victims of: violent, forced evictions; political violence, including killings, repression and ‘criminalizations’ (illegal jailing on trumped up charges); and, a range of human rights violations.

In this context, one of the principal impacts of our work is our ability to keep on enabling Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to keep on doing what they would do anyway – defend their lands, their human rights and Mother Earth (the environment).

Complimentary to this, another principal impact of our work is our ability to increase international awareness (particularly in Canada and the US) about how the actions of different corporations and investors in the global economy – and the governments that support them – participate in and benefit from corruption and impunity, while violating the human rights of local communities in Guatemala, dispossessing peoples of their lands, and harming the environment.

Since 1995, RA has supported and been involved with dozens of these community defense struggles, involving thousands of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in different regions of Guatemala.

Impact measuring

Our work is very long term, and is not usually ‘project’ based. We sometimes will fund a specific project that is proposed by our partner groups (ie: building a community center, irrigation project, school scholarship, or emergency relief, etc.), but typically our work is to support the continued work and struggles of our partner groups. Therefore short term impact and data is less relevant than helping enable our partner groups to stay on their lands, resist the violations of their rights, defend Mother Earth (the environment) and - hopefully, one day - succeed in having the aggressors leave.

Organizational adaptations: 
Size and/or structure, Way in which you collaborate or work with others
Organizational adaptation details

Size and/or structure

One change is the number of community defense struggles we have been able to support. Over the years as we have grown and established a presence with our partners, we have been able to expand our reach. Additionally, while continuing our work in Guatemala, where Rights Action began its work, we have been able to expand and support similar community defense struggles in Chiapas, Mexico (1994-2010), and in Honduras where we continue to support similar community defense struggles today (1998-present date).

Community defense struggles in the context of the unjust, unequal global economic order have many similarities, as they deal with and respond to the corruption and impunity of the powerful sectors, and to illegal evictions, political repression, human rights violations and environmental harms. The main driver in Rights Action being able to fund and support more community defense struggles has been the increased funding from our donors in the US and Canada.

Way in which you collaboration or work with others

A second change since our founding, is the ways and capacities in which we have been able to collaborate with other community and solidarity organizations, NGOs, and groups in Guatemala, the US and Canada has increased and broadened. The increase in collaboration with other organizations and NGOs, is due to, firstly, the creation, over the past 25 years, of more solidarity organizations and NGOs working on global human rights, development and environmental defense issues; and secondly to the increase in numbers of organizations and NGOs that share the understanding that many of these issues are directly related to the workings of the unjust global economic and political orders, and that work and struggles for accountability, justice and change must be brought to the US and Canada.

Short term objectives

Growth

Our goal for the rest of 2021 is to raise $250 - 300,000USD, the majority of which will be sent directly out to our partner groups

Quality

Similar to previous years, we plan to spend our money directly funding projects of partner groups related to community, human rights, land, and environmental defense, as well as a number of the more traditional development projects.

Impact

Some projects that we hope will make headway this year are:

Hudbay Minerals precedent setting lawsuits in Canada: These lawsuits - that are seeking justice and reparations for 13 victims of Hudbay’s mining repression in the Mayan Q’eqchi’ territories of eastern Guatemala - began in 2010, and every year have continued tirelessly. This year, the lawsuits move forward and ever closer in trial before a judge and jury, or - possibly - a fair and just settlement. Rights Action - working closely with the lawyers in Canada and the 13 plaintiffs in Guatemala - is very involved in all aspects of helping move these lawsuits forward.

Education - annual scholarship funds: the beneficiaries of these scholarships are mainly the children of community defenders, the majority being Indigenous. These scholarships are for grade school education and in some cases university.

When safe and able, Rights Action will start up our fact-finding, educational delegations to Guatemala (and Honduras), that feed into our US and Canada focused education and advocacy work.

For more information on these projects, visit our website.

Long term objectives

Growth

Each year we hope to raise enough funds, through directed efforts, so as to not only continue to supporting the groups and community defense struggles we are involved with, but also to support new ones as needed.

Quality

We plan to continue to support projects in the way that we currently do, through direct funding and support of our community partners. Beyond the funding of projects we will continue our outreach, education and activism in Canada and the United States in hopes of shifting the harmful policies and value systems that underlie foreign economic policies towards the Central American region.

Impact

We hope for our long term impact not only to shift US and Canadian policies and value systems towards the region, but also to play a role in the improvement of the quality of life for the partner groups we support in Guatemala.