What is a think tank exactly and why do they matter? A think tank, which is also known as a policy institute or “think factory,” is essentially a collection of experts all working towards a common goal. These collorabatives are usually funded through a combination of federal money, funds from the schools they’re based out of, corporations, and individuals. Many are classified as non-profits.
Through research, reports, and other similar projects, a human rights think tank will not only expose an injustice in-depth, but provide strategies for combating it and improving a situation. This information is essential for change-makers in government and the private sector. Here are five think tanks focused on human rights that you should know about:
In 1941, important figures like Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie founded Freedom House in response to the rise of Nazism. Since those days, Freedom House has continued to oppose and research fascist governments and dictatorships, as well as acts of violence like the genocide in Rwanda. The group publishes reports and books, including the annual “Freedom in the World” report, which ranks countries based on civil liberties and political freedoms.
Founded way back in 1914, the Council consisted of important figures in politics, academia, and religion. Their original goal was to end war, and now it’s been tweaked a bit to the more general mission statement of being “the voice for ethics.” Members of the Council research the going’s on in the world, including human rights violations, economic injustice, religion’s role in politics, and so on. Every quarter, they publish “Ethics & International Affairs,” which was launched in 1987. Essay topics have included birthright citizenship, healthcare policy, digital propaganda, and book reviews.
One of the younger think tanks on this list, HRI was launched in 2014 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies as a multi-discipline group focused on finding solutions to human rights issues. Recent projects include reporting on violent extremism, balancing human rights and security, as well as the creation of iCon, an international consortium of experts and scholars working to protect civil society. On their site, you can find a wealth of content from both the CSIS and Human Rights Initiative.
Based in London with connections in the US, Columbia, Myanmar, and Qatar, IHRB focuses on how corporations impact people, whether it’s an employee, a person from a community near the business’ operation, or human society as a whole. Since 2009, IHRB has conducted research and started projects like the Centre for Sport and Human Rights. They were also an important part of creating the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, an assessment that ranks publicly-traded companies on human rights factors such as transparency and remedy/grievance mechanisms. IHRB holds a special consulting status with the United Nations.
Based out of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the Carr Center consists of policy makers, academics, and other experts coming together to improve global justice. Since 1999, the Center has focused on issues like economic justice, global governance, and equality using sub-groups like the Commission on Human Security. As an example of their work, that group researches and develops strategies on dealing with the impacts of war, environmental decay, and public health scares. The Carr Center also has a program on the intersection of gender, sexuality, and human rights, and plans to further research how multiple issues connect with one another.