International Human Rights


The Challenge


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.


International treaties, numerous subsidiary declarations, national, regional and international monitoring mechanisms, as well as courts and tribunals all form a framework for realising the promise of human rights. The framework is based upon their universality, inalienability, indivisibility and interdependence.


Despite that promise there remains a gulf between the theory and the realisation of those rights in practice. 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 new threats and opportunities.


What we're doing


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. 


In the International Human Rights Programme, we pursue four objectives that seek to:


  • end impunity for gross violations of human rights by upholding victims’ rights to truth, justice and redress, and by preserving public memory to prevent the recurrence of abuses;
  • uphold fundamental guarantees in international law prohibiting arbitrary detention and torture and assuring due process guarantees;
  • protect human rights defenders at risk and strengthen their capacity to be effective; and
  • multiply and amplify influential voices, especially from the Global South, on IHRP global priorities.

Please read the What we fund page for more information on our programme priorities and current grant information.




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; and
  • strengthening the global human rights movement: we seek to support and mobilise diverse constituencies in support of human rights worldwide.