IHRIP’s mission and work are based on the belief that human rights activists have knowledge and skills, as a result of their day-to-day work, that are important to the success not only of their own work, but the work of other activists and organizations, whether in their own or in other countries and regions. The human rights movement—in specific countries and regions as well as internationally—is strengthened through the exchange of this knowledge, experience and expertise.
This belief informs and motivates all of IHRIP’s activities.
IHRIP relies on a small international Advisory Board to define its focus, policies, areas of work and priorities. Advisory Board members are activists from different regions of the world who bring to the program an understanding of developments and trends in their regions, as well as knowledge about human rights work and budget work there.
D.J. Ravindran, Chair, from India, coordinated the human rights program of the UN Mission in Sudan, and worked with the UN human rights programs in East Timor and Cambodia. In the 1990s he founded Forum-Asia, prior to which he was the Asia Program Officer at the International Commission of Jurists.
Fouad Abdelmoumni is the CEO of Association Al Amana in Morocco, which provides micro-loans to the poor in the country. Prior to Al Amana, Mr. Abdelmoumni managed MADI, a social venture capital fund. He is also a former Vice President of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.
Helena Hofbauer was the founder and first Director of Fundar–Centro de Análisis e Investigación in Mexico, which works to advance substantive democracy in Mexico through focusing on human rights and government budgets. Ms. Hofbauer currently heads up the Partnership Initiative of the International Budget Partnership.
Johannes “Babes” Ignacio is a lawyer from the Philippines, who was the founder and for many years Director of Alterlaw in Manila.
Viviana Krsticevic is the Executive Director of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL). She previously worked as a fellow at Cambridge University and Somerville Legal Services, where she counseled refugee women. She has also taught at American University, Stanford University and the Universidad de Buenos Aires.
Birgit Lindsnæs currently works with COWI on governance and evaluations, human rights issues and financing. Ms. Lindsnæs was deputy director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights from 1991 to 2008, and its administrator for five years. She was also chair of the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) from 2003–2007.
Bibiane Mbaye Gahamanyi is a human rights lawyer from Rwanda, who is currently working as Policy Coordinator for West and Central Africa with ActionAid International. Prior to that, she worked with Enda Tiers Monde in Dakar and with the African Centre for Human Rights Studies in Banjul.
Vincent Saldanha is a judge in the High Court of the Western Cape, South Africa. He practiced as an attorney at the Legal Resources Centre from 1994-2008, mainly in human rights litigation and constitutional matters, and continues to be active in various student, community-based organizations and professional bodies.
Aloysius Toe is Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy (FOHRD), which he founded in 2003 to promote economic and social justice, and combat impunity and poverty, in Liberia. During the country’s civil war Mr. Toe led the Movement for the Defense of Human Rights.
David Weissbrodt, founder of IHRIP, is with the Faculty of Law at the University of Minnesota. Professor Weissbrodt has researched and written extensively in the human rights field, and earlier served as a member of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
Over the years IHRIP has maintained a small staff. Current full-time staff are:
Ann Blyberg, Director, a lawyer who has worked in human rights for more than 30 years. Ann has served on the advisory boards of a number of organizations and initiatives, including the Asian Institute for Human Rights and the Human Rights Initiative of the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs. She was also a member of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA, for two years serving as its Chair.
Cristina Jiménez, Projects Coordinator, who facilitates the range of IHRIP initiatives. Cristina is from Ecuador and holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Michigan, where she focused her studies on social and economic justice issues in Latin America. Before joining IHRIP, Cristina worked with refugees in Ecuador.
Over the years IHRIP has received generous financial support from a wide range of committed institutions and individuals. Most recently, these have included:
- The Ford Foundation
- The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)
- The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation
- The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations
IHRIP began in 1976 as the International Human Rights Internship Program. Based first at the University of Minnesota, in 1983 the Program moved to the Washington, DC office of the Institute of International Education (IIE), where it has been housed ever since.
In its early years IHRIP’s purpose was to provide students or individuals just out of school with an in-depth exposure to work in the human rights field. These internships were what gave IHRIP its name. Among interns during these early years were:
- Philip Alston, who later served as Chair of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- Ligia Bolivar, who went on to co-found PROVEA, a leading human rights organization in Venezuela
- Iren Khan, who from 2001 to 2009 was Secretary-General of Amnesty International
- Bulelani Ngcuka, the first national Director of Public Prosecutions in the post-apartheid government in South Africa
- Joe Oloka-Onyango, (pictured below) who later became a member of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
In 1989 IHRIP shifted its focus from these entry-level internships to short-term professional development exchange opportunities for staff of human rights organizations. These exchanges fit well within IHRIP’s goal, which was redefined in the same year, as: to help strengthen the work of human rights organizations through facilitating the exchange of knowledge and experience among them, and between human rights groups and groups in other relevant fields. Over the course of the next 20 years, with the very generous, voluntary assistance of a large number of host organizations in countries around the world, IHRIP sponsored more than 400 exchange projects by staff of human rights groups in the global South as well as East and Central Europe and CIS countries.
In addition to these people-to-people exchanges, IHRIP facilitates and supports other forms of learning between and among groups. Since 1994 the Program has pursued a specific focus on economic, social and cultural rights, collaborating with a large number of organizations to produce a range of resources to enable activists to better pursue ESC rights work. In collaboration with partner organizations, IHRIP also sponsored learning programs on ESC rights work. In the last several years IHRIP has devoted increasing attention to budget analysis as a tool for human rights work, producing resources and sponsoring learning programs, along with its partner organizations, on human rights budget work. As of 2009 IHRIP-sponsored exchange projects will focus exclusively on this work.