MacArthur today committed an additional $15 million to support Mexico’s civil society and continued efforts to protect human rights and reform the nation’s justice system.
“Our grantee partners across Mexico confront challenges every day in protecting and advancing human rights,” said Sharon Bissell, Director of MacArthur’s Mexico office. “They are highly experienced, innovative, quick, compassionate, and inclusive in their strategies. This new commitment of $15 million will enable them to continue their important work in the short term and to strengthen voices from the field.”
Of these new funds, $5 million over two years (2019-2020) will support ongoing work to advance criminal justice reform and Mexico’s new National Prosecutor’s Office, a critical component of a fair accusatory justice system. Promoting mandatory professional civil service and the development of criminal investigation strategies, as well as the creation of a new forensic sciences agency will also be components of this effort. A specific and important goal is to help build the effectiveness of the Prosecutor’s Office and state agencies in ensuring justice for forced disappearances. Over 37,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since 2006.
Mexico’s human rights and security crisis disproportionately affects citizens living outside of Mexico City, where civil society is comparatively less developed and has fewer funding opportunities. In response, the second part of MacArthur’s new commitment aims to strengthen state-based civil society organizations. MacArthur will invest $10 million in a new fund to honor and support the critical role of state-level human rights work. The Foundation is working with local partners to design the fund, which will begin to award grants in 2020. Additional details will be announced later this year.
These new initiatives represent the Foundation’s final commitment to its human rights work in Mexico, and MacArthur will close its Mexico office in December 2020. MacArthur does not engage in any field or geography with an unlimited commitment of time or resources. Five years ago, MacArthur decided to reduce its areas of work to achieve greater impact, primarily through select big bets to address a few of the world’s most urgent and existential issues. The Foundation continues to maintain country offices in Nigeria and India, where its Big Bets, On Nigeria and Climate Solutions, operate.
When the Foundation exits an area of work, it aims to do so responsibly, with sufficient notice and support to allow grantees to plan for future sustainability. In addition to the new $15 million commitment announced today, the Foundation will provide additional services to our Mexico grantees, including trainings and convenings, to facilitate skills development and connections to support future work.
MacArthur has awarded more than 1,100 grants totaling nearly $200 million to organizations and individuals in Mexico or whose work was intended to benefit Mexico since 1984. The Foundation opened an office in Mexico in 1992.
Over the years, grantmaking has focused on advancing reproductive and sexual health and rights, strengthening human rights, addressing regional migration issues, and strengthening local philanthropy. From 2015-2018, a capstone investment ending population and reproduction grantmaking and strengthening the field for the future provided $17 million to more than 50 projects to strengthen midwifery in Mexico. Under MacArthur’s human rights programming, recent investments included nearly $3 million to 25 organizations leading civil society efforts to strengthen the justice system by creating a strong and effective National Prosecutor’s Office.