The United States is home to many well-known human rights organizations. They tackle national issues like racism, poverty, and gender rights, as well as issues found in other countries. Here’s a list of ten orgs doing the hard work necessary to protect the dignity of all persons:
Based in New York City, this international NGO performs advocacy and research for a wide variety of human rights issues, including the rights of children, refugees, and political prisoners. Using what’s been learned through research, HRW pressures power-holders (lawmakers, governments, etc) to recognize abuses and work towards preventing them in the future. In 1997, HRW earned the Nobel Peace Prize as a member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and in 2008, it played a major role in the ban of cluster munitions.
Also headquartered in New York, Human Rights First is a legal representation program that connects pro bono lawyers with those seeking asylum. With offices also in Washington D.C, Los Angeles, and Houston, Human Rights First seeks out those who can’t afford a lawyer and/or who need help with a claim. The org has been helping these populations since 1978. In addition to its legal rep program, HRF conducts campaigns centered on human rights issues, like torture. Its current campaigns include a blueprint on how to close Guantanamo and advocacy on ending modern slavery.
Founded in 2007 by actress Julia Ormond, LA-based ASSET is committed to reducing and eventually ending human trafficking. Its mission is to focus on victim voices and stories, and go after the problem at its source. By identifying why trafficking and slavery occurs, it’s possible to stop it before it even happens. The organization’s achievements include the Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which requires retailers and manufacturers to disclose how they’re preventing slavery and human trafficking in their product supply chains. This was the first law of its kind; before, retailers/manufacturers were only required to be open about their gender and race policies.
Founded in New York in 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights works with vulnerable populations using litigation and advocacy. Their mission encompasses gender discrimination, economic inequity, racism, and governmental overreach. CCR’s landmark cases include Rasul v. Bush (2004), which gave Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to challenge their status in US courts and get legal representation. Since that win, CCR has obtained the release of many prisoners held there illegally or who did not pose a security risk. In 2013, CCR won a case that held the NYPD responsible for a pattern and practice of racial profiling and unconstitutional stop-and-frisks.
Founded by war veterans, this organization conducts campaigns centered on specific human rights issues. It consists of two branches: the Justice Project, Inc. and the Justice Project Education Fund. Their current focus is Criminal Justice Reform. Using public education, engagement with politicians and lawmakers, and thousands of activists and volunteers, the TJP works persistently for results. The Innocence Protection Act, signed into law by President Bush in 2004, is the only bipartisan legislation focusing on problems with America’s system of capital punishment.
This unique organization was founded by an anthropologist and his wife in response to the cultural devastation of indigenous Amazonians and South Americans during the 1960’s. Since then, Cultural Survival has worked with indigenous communities all over the world, including Africa, Australia, and the America’s. One of the org’s projects provides people with radio, and in addition to their headquarters in Massachusetts, Cultural Survival has a satelitte office for the Guatemala Radio Project. Why radio? It can be used by indigenous people to speak out on what matters to them, and beyond buying a physical radio, it’s free to listen to.
Founded in 1976, Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to build “simple, decent, and affordable” housing. It has since become the largest not-for-profit builder in the world. The international headquarters is found in Georgia, USA, and it has five international offices in countries such as South Africa, Slovakia, and Costa Rica. In total, it reaches 70 countries outside of the US. In addition to building new houses, Habitat also partners with local communities following natural disasters. Its other projects include exploring environmentally-friendly building materials and advocating for improving access to land.
This Texas-based non-profit has a simple mission: provide immigrants with legal services. It is currently the largest legal aid group in Texas. In June, 2018, the org responded to the separation of families at the US border with its “National Families Together Hotline,” which helped people find each other. In addition to its legal work, RAICES runs Casa RAICES, which focuses on finding housing for asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants.
Named after the North Star, which was said to be a guide for slaves running to freedom. Polaris provides assistance to victims and survivors of human trafficking through a hotline. In its 10 years of operation, Polaris has reported over 6,5000 cases of human trafficking through its National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline and BeFree textline. It has also been involved in over 120 anti-trafficking bills. Using the information gathered from its hotlines, Polaris created one of the biggest data sets on human trafficking in the US. Because of its focus on preventing trafficking using laws, Polaris is sometimes criticized for not taking by-choice sex workers into account.
Named after a leading activist during the Civil Rights Movement, the Ella Baker Center focuses on racial injustice in America as manifested in the prison system. The Ella Baker Center organizes campaigns that amplify the stories of incarcerated people of color and advocate for freedom. The org’s successes include organizing Books Not Bars, a campaign to promote alternatives to youth prisons. Following the launch of that campaign, five of the eight youth prisons in California closed and the youth population prison went from 4,800 to 922.