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January 23, 2022

Reflecting on 2021 and Looking Ahead to 2022

Our resilience has been tested in these difficult times, yet we have found strength and inspiration in the care and support we offer each other.

Dear friends,

On behalf of our entire Humanity United team, I wish you and your loved ones a happy and prosperous new year. Like many of you, we are bringing much hope into 2022, though we know that people and communities around the world continue to suffer under the pandemic and its effects. Our resilience has been tested in these difficult times, yet we have found strength and inspiration in the care and support we offer each other.

This month marks my two-year anniversary as the Managing Partner at HU. I could not have predicted in January 2020 what the world had in store, but I have learned so much in this role. Despite the challenges of the past two years, like many of you, I’m a better person for having gone through it. I see more clearly, and am both hopeful about the future and thankful that you are alongside us in this journey.

As we kick off 2022, I want to offer some reflections on the past year and some thoughts on what’s ahead. In 2021, our context continued to be one of global disruption and unpredictability. Like most organizations in the spaces where we work, we struggled with the uncertainty brought about by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact. However, we also saw many hopeful signs last year that the work we are collectively doing is making an impact:

  • Our partners showed up and engaged in direct action to support workers, including raising the voices of workers impacted by shutdowns, layoffs, and repatriations, and advocating for a worker-centered approach to pandemic responses.
  • We saw a distinct shift towards locally led peacebuilding. For instance, USAID announced that 25% of its development funding will go to local actors.
  • We witnessed heads of state at the G7 summit call on their members to specifically address forced labor in supply chains.
  • We saw strong U.S. Tariff Act enforcement as well as steady progress towards mandatory human rights due diligence legislation in Europe to identify human rights violations in corporate supply chains.
  • We saw progress on a number of policy priorities including Trafficking Victims Protection Act, Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act, Global Fragility Act implementation, Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, and the Trafficking in Persons report.
  • In addition, we saw specific signs of progress in regions we are engaged in. In Colombia, in response to the social protests and police brutality, our partners spearheaded dialogues across divides that engaged more than 4,000 citizens. Moreover, we saw the removal of FARC from the Foreign Terrorist Organization List, a welcome step forward for the international community to support the ongoing peace accord implementation. In Mali, we witnessed the courage of local peacebuilders who gathered 400 community stories and transformed them into a systems map for conflict transformation.

We also made some strides as an organization, strengthening our capacity to truly accompany our partners in creating the change want to see in the world:

  • Building on the experience of creating emergency response funds in 2020, we streamlined our grantmaking processes to reduce the burden on grantees and continued to make responsive grants in 2021 to those impacted by COVID-19. By the end of the year, we made 36 responsive grants totaling $1.55 million.
  • We announced an additional $1 million in funding to further support racial justice organizations in the US. We know that if we hope to contribute to a more just and equitable global society, we must work at home as well as abroad.
  • We deepened our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ). We have updated our practices around recruitment, retention, and staff support, and expanded ways in which we bring diverse voices to the table. We will share details on our broader DEIJ work in the coming months.
  • We implemented a set of robust supports for our staff as they dealt with the COVID crisis, emphasizing flexibility and the importance of mental and physical health.
  • We strengthened our capacity to be a learning organization. Our programmatic portfolios implemented regular reflection practices to explore their learning questions and assumptions. These practices built the foundation for staff across HU to share and explore learnings in all-staff venue for learning and reflection for the first time.
  • Finally, we created an organizational strategy for HU that captures the essence of why we do the work, what we focus on, and how we execute on the work. We will be sharing this with our partners shortly.

Looking ahead to 2022, we hope to continue our journey towards being a resilient, compassionate, and learning-focused organization. At the same time, we recognize that there are a number of challenges that hinder our and our partners’ ability to create lasting change:

  • Many of our grantees and partners continue to be deeply impacted by the pandemic in terms of fundraising, staffing, and addressing needs in the field. Migrant workers and displaced populations are particularly affected.
  • Climate change continues to be a great disruptor, especially in terms of the vicious nexus between climate, migration, and conflict.
  • The strong trend of authoritarian responses to COVID, and the subsequent restriction of civil society space, has made it far more difficult for activists to mobilize and human rights movements to succeed.
  • Trauma remains a powerful force hindering healing and social change in the wake of the pandemic.

There is no secret formula to deal with these challenges. However, in 2022, we commit to supporting our grantees and partners and doing everything in our power to increase their influence and agency, including:

  • Reviewing our grants management process and inviting feedback from our partners.
  • Elevating the voices of migrant workers, survivors of trafficking, and local peacebuilders in our work and in the sector more broadly.
  • Partnering with key organizations in the anti-trafficking space to bring a lens of inclusivity to the labor and anti-trafficking movements.
  • Protecting the momentum of locally led peacebuilding and supporting new governance models for networks and grassroots movements.
  • Supporting journalists and storytellers to illuminate the systems and actors that are enabling exploitation and violent conflict around the world.
  • Using our public communications platforms to advance and uplift partner voices and the perspectives of those most impacted by the issues we work on.

 There is still much work to be done, but I believe that together we can shift the trajectory of history. To quote one of HU’s great heroes, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who passed away at the end of 2021,

“… the bad, the evil, doesn’t have the last word. It’s ultimately the goodness, and the laughter and joy and caring and compassion… those are what are going to prevail in the end”

With much appreciation,


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