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September 23, 2020

Humanity United’s Commitment

At Humanity United, we recognize the interconnectedness and intrinsic dignity of all people. For more than a decade, we have supported and worked closely with a number of dedicated partners to change the systems that enable violent conflict, atrocities, human exploitation, and forced labor; issues that disproportionately affect vulnerable people and are an affront to human dignity.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage communities around the world—taking lives, spreading suffering, and altering global and local systems in profound ways we may not understand for decades—these issues have not receded. Rather, they have been amplified, and in many cases exacerbated by this global health crisis.

Though much about the future is unknown to us, Humanity United’s commitment to this work remains firm. Over the next three years, we are committing $40 million to our two major programmatic portfolios—$18 million to our Peacebuilding portfolio, and $22 million to our portfolio focused on Forced Labor and Human Trafficking.

More than ever, our approach will center on examining and addressing power imbalances within complex systems and supporting the agency and expertise of communities living closest to these persistent problems. We believe this approach is necessary during the pandemic, and will become even more critical as the world rebuilds.

“In this moment of suffering and uncertainty, we at Humanity United strive to be in service to those most in need. This includes people and communities impacted by human exploitation and violent conflict, as well as our many partners, allies, and grantees around the world,” said Srik Gopal, Humanity United’s managing partner. “Our programmatic portfolios build on over a decade of experience in these fields and are focused on cultivating peace and freedom for some of the most vulnerable people among us.”

Our Peacebuilding portfolio recognizes that current approaches to peacebuilding and conflict prevention are often focused on the decisions of those in power and “top down” strategies that devalue local expertise. We know that those working at the frontlines of peace possess the deep knowledge, relationships, and legitimacy to transform their societies, and yet their efforts are often secondary to the priorities of state or multilateral organizations. Our goal is to accompany and support the work of local peacebuilders, while also influencing the global peacebuilding and policy system to be more responsive to local agency and power.

“Our global peacebuilding system is broken. Rather than building just and lasting peace, for too long the system has caused the widespread devaluation and disempowerment of local peacebuilders,” said Melanie Greenberg, managing director of Peacebuilding. “It is time to reimagine and redesign a peacebuilding system that is led by those living closest to conflict and that honors their expertise and vision for sustainable peace. With more than a billion people living in conflict-affected areas and in fragile states, and in the throes of a global pandemic, there is an immediate need to focus on new, more localized approaches to peacebuilding.”

In our work to amplify the agency and power of local peacebuilders, we are organizing around three focus areas: 1. People Power: we will support and accompany local actors as they harness their own agency and use their expertise and power to foster new forms of collective action. 2. Shifting Institutions: we will work with others to shift structures and policies within national and global policy organizations to be more responsive to local peacebuilding voices and needs. 3. Catalyzing Conditions: we will support the work of organizations and coalitions whose efforts strengthen the wider field of peacebuilding, and expand locally-led peacebuilding.

Our Forced Labor & Human Trafficking portfolio seeks to address the power imbalances that enable and embolden human exploitation, specifically the imbalance between employers and laborers, and between countries of origin, host countries and migrant workers. The reliance of industries and countries on this cheap, and in many instances free labor, alongside the lack of corporate accountability, are two of the most critical factors allowing these systems of exploitation to thrive. Exploited workers are often migrants who are denied access to the same rights, protections, and opportunities for remedy that native workers receive in their host countries,

Our work will be centered around three focus areas: 1. Worker Agency: we will support efforts that shift current power dynamics towards greater agency for workers, including worker organizing and leadership. 2. Corporate Accountability: we seek to accelerate the evolution of the current global economy towards corporate accountability for fair labor practices, including applying pressure through capital markets, improved supply chain transparency reporting, and mandatory human rights due diligence for companies. 3. Safer Migration: we will support efforts to expand access to safer labor migration pathways in order to reduce migrant workers’ vulnerability to exploitation.

“Many of our global markets have been built on the backs of exploited workers,” said Philippe Sion, managing director of Forced Labor and Human Trafficking. “These abuses persist because of the complexity and opacity of global supply chains; the ignorance—often willful—of corporate and economic actors; and the harmful policies, practices, and cultural barriers faced by migrants. Only by addressing these issues, and ensuring that workers themselves are centered in our efforts, can we collectively elevate the role of human dignity in our global economy.”

As we have over the years, we will continue to operate in partnership with dedicated individuals, organizations, and networks around the world. Working alongside others amplifies our collective efforts, helps us learn, and ensures we remain responsive to evolving system changes and needs.

Importantly, at HU we also remain committed to raising awareness and understanding of these issues, and building accountability and action among key stakeholders. Our Independent Journalism & Media, Strategic Communications, and Policy and Government Relations teams are focused on cultivating the conditions needed for change. Their work benefits HU’s programs, and it is also in-service to a broader ecosystem of advocates, organizations, and movements working for enduring peace and freedom around the world.

At HU, we believe in the power of people to bring about extraordinary change. This belief has shaped and informed our values, which continue to inform and closely guide our work. In the midst of this devastating crisis, we are committed to transforming these systems that inhibit inherent human dignity.

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