Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DRI Director in Mexico Awarded National Youth Award

Sofía Galván, the Director of Mexico and Central America for Disability Rights International (DRI), will receive the National Youth Award from the Mexican government in December. This award, Mexico’s highest public honor, is given to a young person whose career has already improved his/her communities and inspired others in his/her generation. Ms. Galván has been honored because of her work as a lawyer and advocate to defend, promote and educate others about human rights, including the human rights of adults and children with disabilities in Mexico through her work with Overbrook Foundation Grantee DRI. Her achievements include her support of the establishment of Colectivo Chuhcan, the first Mexican advocacy organization run by people with psychosocial disabilities, and her efforts to publicize the human rights abuses against people with disabilities living in psychiatric facilities, orphanages and other institutions to a larger public. This information has been documented in a recent DRI report, Abandoned & Disappeared: Mexico's Segregation and Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities. After investigating abuses and contributing to the writing of this report, Galván will use it to train other human rights advocates and government officials so that they can protect this population and understand issues that are specific to Mexicans with disabilities. The Overbrook Foundation congratulates Ms. Galván on her award and her fight to defend human rights for the adults and children with disabilities who have been forgotten by others in their communities.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2012 Human Rights Institute at the Urban Justice Center

The Urban Justice Center’s Human Rights Project has opened the application period for its 2012 Human Rights Institute. Over the course of this three-day fellowship, participants will learn how to incorporate a Human Rights framework into their own advocacy work around domestic economic and social justice issues. Not only will participants learn more about human rights treaties and arguments, but they will also be provided with concrete tools and methods for integrating these models into their own organizations and communications efforts.

This great opportunity will take place in New York City from March 28th to March 30th 2012. The deadline for applications is January 9, 2012 for those seeking scholarships and January 16, 2012 for those who will not ask for financial assistance.

As The Overbrook Foundation strongly supports the development of a United States Human Rights Movement, we believe that it is important for organizations like the Urban Justice Center to offer workshops and trainings in the use of human rights arguments for new activist leaders. In addition to providing the capacity for participants to teach the populations they work with or others in their own organizations, this fellowship has the potential to create valuable connections and partnerships between organizations across a variety of economic and social justice issue areas.

For more information or the application form, please consult the Human Rights Project’s website: The information found on this blog post comes from this site and emails received from this grantee.

Recycling in the US - Job Creation and Environmental Protection

On November 16, the United States Senate unanimously voted to pass Senate Resolution 251, which aims to increase and expand recycling programs across the United States. In response to slowing rates of increases in US recycling, this resolution expresses the Senate’s support for government policies that promote recycling by rewarding businesses and communities that choose to recycle their goods or create goods made from recycled products. The resolution also stresses the importance of investment in research and development to improve technologies for recycling materials and removing contaminant materials from products that currently prevent them from being recycled. This resolution emphasizes that growing the recycling sector will assist the American economy by creating jobs in the floundering American manufacturing sector.

Several of The Overbrook Foundation’s grantees supported the development of this resolution and took leadership roles in advocating for its support in Congress, including an initiative by the Environmental Paper Network’s RePaper Project, seeking a 75% paper recovery rate for recycling by 2015. In fact, you can learn more about this resolution and the next steps to promote recycling on the Environmental Paper Network’s blog, which also contains the press release from sponsoring Senators, Tom Carper and Olympia Snowe.

Additionally, Overbrook grantees have been involved with a new publication on recycling and its potential to create jobs, More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in the U.S. This report was released on November 14 by Overbrook grantees the NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Council) and GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives) along with other partners from unions and environmentalist organizations. Through this publication, readers will acquire a greater understanding of why this is a critical moment for all Americans to advocate for and personally engage in recycling. It shows how an overall waste diversion rate (recycling rate) of 75% through 2030 will improve both our economic future and our environmental future. To put these numbers into perspective, the current overall waste diversion rate is 33% and if the level of growth in population, resource use and personal recycling remains constant, the overall waste diversion rate would reach 41% in 2030. Obviously, reaching these target levels of recycling would require policy shifts and individual lifestyle changes. However, the payoff would include the creation of 2.3 million jobs in the United States, lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions and of general pollution or toxin levels, and a decrease of ecological pressure associated with the depletion of nonrenewable resources. While this report contains information on environmental factors, it also intentionally taps into the current national attention on the economy by highlighting the potential creation of many more jobs if we change our disposal methods. For instance, waste management systems currently employ fewer individuals than recycling systems or plants manufacturing goods from recycled materials.

The Foundation is deeply concerned with sustainable consumption so we truly hope that this resolution is a step in the direction of increased attention to recycling issues. As echoed in the report, this is a critical moment where we need to grow recycling capacity rather than continuing to use incinerators or other inefficient waste disposal mechanisms in the United States. The inclusion of information on job creation may create a larger coalition of people willing to act on recycling and support the work of our grantees to improve recycling practices, recycling policy, and the implementation of environmentally-friendly packaging programs.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Foundation Center's New Report on Social Justice Philanthropy

As its title suggests, “Diminishing Dollars: The Impact of the 2008 Financial Crisis on the Field of Social Justice Philanthropy” explains the effect of the economic crisis on the US philanthropic community, a community which includes The Overbrook Foundation. This Foundation Center publication projects that foundations supporting social justice will only be able to return to 2008 funding levels in 2015. After polling several foundations, the Foundation Center found that small foundations (with less than $50 million in assets) struggled most to recover from the crisis and that they experienced a greater decrease in grantmaking dollars than larger foundations. Other findings reveal that nonprofit organizations have found it more difficult to attract new funders and that some foundations are unintentionally shrinking their endowments to continue promoting their mission and honoring obligations to traditional grantees.

Offering suggestions to funders dealing with these shifts in funding levels, the report recommends implementation of financial analysis that incorporates future assets and comprehensive grantmaking projections to manage volatile endowment levels. It also advises frequent and transparent communication between foundations and their grantees so that lower levels of support can be anticipated by grantees. Furthermore, the report's authors encourage foundations to provide financial management and resource development support to grantees so that these organizations can continue to function despite the reductions in foundation support.

This depiction of social justice philanthropy reinforces The Overbrook Foundation’s current focus on making extremely strategic funding choices, continuing with responsible budgetary planning and engaging in good communication with grantees organizations. While many of the findings and recommendations were known to us, the report has provided several interesting ideas and themes to consider over the next several years. In addition, it might serve as a good resource for Directors and grantees to further understand the challenges that face The Overbrook Foundation and other foundations in this economic climate.

Click here to read the full report:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Human Rights Abuses in Mexico's "War on Drugs"

On November 9, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report describing the rise in human rights abuses in Mexico since President Calderon launched the war on drugs and organized crime five years ago. This new report, called Neither Rights Nor Security Killings, Torture, and Disappearances in Mexico's "War on Drugs", follows the surge in violence in five states resulting from the actions of both drug cartels and government actors. HRW reveals that the government's public security policy has led to an increase in human rights violations, rather than accomplishing its intended goal of restoring and guarding public safety.

Based on credible evidence, the authors have identified 170 cases of torture, 39 "disappearances" and 24 extrajudicial killings. Many of these human rights abuses involved security forces and often included attempts to cover up these events rather than launching proper investigations. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch identified an increased scale of human rights abuses. For example, 4,803 complaints of abuses by soldiers against civilians have been filed with the Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission between 2007 and 2010 (up from 691 complaints between 2003 and 2006). Decrying the impunity of these abuses, Human Rights Watch investigates the failure of the government, security forces, prosecutors and medical advisers to challenge these actions. While this report does not ignore the violence stemming from the drug cartel's activities, it strives to show how those who claim to protect Mexican citizens have failed to enforce standards of due process or to investigate many of the abuses perpetrated against their constituents. The report also addresses the failure of Mexico's Human Rights Institutions to effectively help those who have been detained or killed or to support their families and friends, ignoring the suffering and serious consequences of trauma in this population. Additionally, HRW critiques the societal discourse that frames abuses like torture and disappearances as targeting only those who were mixed up in organized crime, when that is not always the case. A shift in this discourse and the efforts to help the families of victims is needed for adequate pressure to be put on government and military forces to stop the abuses.

Click on this link for the press release:

If you would like to view the full report, you can download it here: