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Financier Soros Gives $100 Million To Human Rights Watch

Georges Soros said it had become a liability for Human Rights Watch to be funded primarily by U.S. donors.
In one of the biggest donations of its kind, financier and philanthropist George Soros has promised $100 million to the global advocacy group Human Rights Watch, to help it expand its work.

Kenneth Roth, the group's executive director, said he hoped Soros's example would encourage other philanthropists "to invest in the ideals of human rights."

Soros said his gift to the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which will be allocated over the next 10 years, was a "challenge grant."

He is asking the group to raise another $100 million over the next decade, mainly from outside the United States, although the grant is not conditional on fundraising performances.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency on September 7, the 80-year-old Soros said HRW already had "a pretty strong base in Europe, but I think [in] Latin America and Asia, they need to build that up."

Soros, a staunch Democratic Party supporter, said it had become a liability for the organization to be funded primarily by U.S. donors.

He said the United States had lost its "moral high ground" under the administration of former President George W. Bush, which drew international criticism for its handling of terrorism suspects.

The financier said he trusted his $100 million gift would be spent wisely by HRW, adding that he started out as a philanthropist by attending the group's weekly meetings in the early 1980s.

"First of all, it's a cause that I believe in very strongly," Soros said, "and secondly, it's an organization that I know very well, and I can vouch for its efficiency and having kept its spirit."

Expanding Operations

Human Rights Watch has a staff of almost 300 and documents rights abuses in about 90 countries.

The group said Soros's donation would enable it to fill what it described as significant gaps in its reporting network, including in parts of Africa and Asia.

The organization also plans to hire new researchers in key countries as well as staff to engage more effectively with local governments and journalists.

The Hungarian-born Soros is ranked 35th on "Forbes" magazine's list of the world's richest people and has an estimated fortune of $14 billion.

He has donated around $8 billion during his lifetime, with his Open Society Foundations giving away more than $600 million a year.

compiled from agency reports