Programme overview

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Since 1948 the global community has developed an extensive body of international law and principles to protect human rights. But the development and implementation of these standards has always faced opposition. There remains a gulf between human rights rhetoric and the lived experience of so many people. We seek to close that gap.


Oak Trustees have a long-standing interest in protecting the fundamental rights of the individual, supporting those who champion that struggle, and ensuring that perpetrators of gross abuses are held to account.


Find out more about our Programme strategy below.



© William Meyer

In this introductory video, the IHRP’s director, Adrian Arena, talks about the work of the programme and the key challenges that they are facing today.

We support activist organisations involved in creative efforts that support our aims: from documentation, evidence collection, campaigns, strategic litigation and outreach. We also support those who empower human rights defenders, by improving their physical and digital security and enhancing their effectiveness through a range of technological tools. We provide core, project and seed funding in multi-year grants.




To close the impunity gap for gross violations of human rights by investigating and documenting gross abuses, holding abusers to account and seeking victim redress.

  • place accountability for gross abuses on the public and political agenda;
  • research, document and collect evidence of gross abuses for accountability processes;
  • hold abusers to account by launching prosecutions and civil suits and ensuring justice beyond the verdict or decision; and
  • collect and safeguard historical documentation of past abuses; ensure public access to these same records and support innovative


To uphold fundamental guarantees in international law which prohibit arbitrary detention and torture and ensure the observance of due process guarantees.

  • We support efforts in the immigration and criminal justice contexts which reduce arbitrary detention by:
  • ensuring independent and adequate oversight of detention regimes;
  • promoting attitudinal change by the state on the necessity and duration of detention; and
  • promoting, developing and implementing alternatives to detention.
  • We also support interventions which:
  • uphold the due process rights of detainees including their right to challenge their detention; and
  • uphold the absolute prohibition on torture and ensure that victims of torture can access their right to rehabilitation.


To ensure that LGBTI communities are free from discriminatory prosecution, persecution and violence.

We support efforts which:

  • strengthen the legal framework that guarantees freedom from criminalisation, hate and violence;
  • end stigmatisation and build public consensus in support of ending the persecution of LGBTI communities;
  • provide legal, psychosocial and protective services for LGBTI victims of hate and violence; and
  • build the documentation, advocacy and management skills of LGBTI advocates.


To protect human rights defenders at risk, strengthen their capacity, combat closing civic space and build a strong and resilient human rights movement.

We support efforts which:

  • monitor and engage in protective advocacy for human rights defenders at risk, and support a localised, contextual approach to threat analysis and preparedness;
  • strengthen international protection networks to ensure a robust, responsive safety-net for human rights defenders under threat;
  • reverse the global trend of closing civic space including through the creation of broad coalitions comprising civil society and donors and the amplification of civil society voices through influential media;
  • equip human rights defenders with the necessary skills and technological innovations to effectively conduct their work; and
  • build a resilient human rights movement, supported by broad constituencies, diverse revenue streams and effective outreach to new audiences.



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 seek to create change through activism (for example, advocacy campaigning and strategic litigation)


Strengthening our partners

Our grant-making is a partnership. We empower and build the capacity of our partners; and


Strengthening the global human rights movement

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

In 2018 the International Human Rights Programme made 49 grants totalling USD 25.95 million.


The IHRP works internationally at the global, regional and national levels. We fund directly in the EU (including the UK), the US, Brazil, Russia, India and Myanmar. There is very limited capacity to expand our geographic coverage. Exceptionally, we sometimes work with intermediary organisations in those geographies where there is potential to advance specific lines of work where we are not currently active.



View and search our grants here.


 Nina Spataru

Programme Associate




Our mission

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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©2018 Oak Foundation.
All rights reserved.


Privacy Policy, Security Protocols and Terms of Use.


©2018 Oak Foundation.
All rights reserved.