A New Dawn for Accountability?

As Human Rights Face a Historic Global Assault, Powerful Financial Tools Arise to Counter Abusers

By Brad Brooks-Rubin

Andriy Popov / Alamy Stock Photo

Around the world today, human rights face historic threats. In 2019, humanitarian aid funding fell, there were 951 attacks on health workers and facilities, and 304 human rights defenders were killed. We are living through an era where respect for human rights is in all but full retreat. In the United States, and in many regions around the world, it can sometimes appear as though governments are moving away from their commitments to uphold the basic laws meant to protect us all from murder, violence, and repression.

Amid this apparent assault, the power of financial tools of pressure against human rights abusers and their support networks can provide new hope. The use of these tools, at least in some areas, has grown significantly and is already making a difference.

We are experiencing a slow but meaningful evolution in how the private sector partners with civil society and governments to engage where the risk of human rights abuses is high. And while the increasing use of these financial tools does not offset the more disturbing trend in human rights writ large, it does present an important opportunity from which advocates and communities can build. This is especially true as financial institutions and the broader private sector begin to recognize that the same muscles they have used to exercise due diligence related to sanctions, anticorruption, and financial crimes can be deployed to human rights concerns.

Here are just a few of the key ways these tools and changes are being applied:

Today, financial measures can be deployed quickly and with broader applications than ever before. Governments and the private sector are just waking up to the power of these tools to target human rights abusers and bring them to real account. As we witness an erosion of rights around the world, human rights defenders must counter that trend, expanding awareness of these tools and advocating for their use. We are all stakeholders in this existential fight, and we can’t leave anything on the table.

Brad Brooks-Rubin is Managing Director of The Sentry .



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The Sentry

The Sentry is an investigative and policy team that follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers. TheSentry.org