Since 1948, the international community has developed an extensive body of international legal standards and institutions that relate to the promotion and protection of human rights. However, many individuals who seek to uphold their rights or the rights of others are threatened and punished because of their work, and their space for activism is restricted. National security fears, the economic crisis, hostility to human rights and the emergence of a multi-polar international order also present threats and opportunities. There remains a gulf between the theory and the realisation of these rights in practice.


In the International Human Rights Programme (IHRP), we work with partners to: end impunity for the gross violations of human rights; uphold prohibitions on arbitrary detention and torture; protect human rights defenders at risk; and multiply and amplify influential voices on IHRP global priorities.


In this Introduction video, the programme director Adrian Arena talks about their work with partners and the challenges that they are facing today.


Our grant-making is underpinned by the following:

Upholding the international legal framework

We support work that is based upon and seeks to uphold, strengthen and implement international human rights law;

Promoting systemic change

We prioritise initiatives that seek to deliver concrete systemic change beyond individual redress;

Supporting activism
We support initiatives that are activist in orientation (for example, advocacy campaigning and strategic litigation, rather than the delivery of services or academic research);

Strengthening our partners
Our grant-making is a partnership and one of our key priorities is to empower and build the capacity of our grantees;

Strengthening the global human rights movement

We seek to support and mobilise diverse constituencies in support of human rights worldwide.




Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.


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