The Montreal-based organization Rights and Democracy (R&D), originally known as the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, was founded in 1988 by an Act of the Canadian Parliament “to encourage and support the universal values of human rights and the promotion of democratic institutions and practices around the world.” R&D has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and is on the International Labour Organization’s Special List of NGOs. It also has observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The recipient of more than $4 million per year from the Canadian government, R&D’s major objectives fall under four separate categories:
Globalization, Governance & Human Rights: “To help reduce the gap between the actual practices of states and their formal adhesion to international human rights agreements.”
Rights of Indigenous Peoples: “To contribute to the full recognition and implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples nationally, regionally and internationally.”
Rights of Women: “To facilitate women’s leadership and participation in civil society; to ensure their full contribution to peace-building processes, to seek accountability for gender crimes in transitional justice systems, and to build women’s capacity to meet the challenges of fundamentalisms, militarism and the prevailing security agenda.”
Democratic Development: “To contribute to the development of democratic practices, institutions and culture at the national and regional levels …”
R&D’s campaign to promote “democratic institutions in developing areas” has been used to justify a strongly pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel political agenda. The organization has approved funding grants for a number of projects conducted by highly politicized recipients, including the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (an NGO established in 1996 to “end human rights violations committed against Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem”) and the International Women’s House in Hares (whose mission is “to train women … to witness, monitor, document and publicize human rights abuses; [to] peacefully intervene to prevent such abuses from taking place; and [to] support the growth in non-violent resistance to the military occupation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank and Gaza”). Both of these donees presume Israeli military activity to be not only the greatest, but the only, threat to human rights in the Palestinian territories.
In October 2000, shortly after the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada, R&D issued a press release characterizing the violence as a logical reaction to: “Israeli control of over 60% of land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”; Israeli restrictions of Palestinian “control and access to their own land” through “land seizures, house demolitions and restrictions on social and economic development”; the detention of Palestinians by Israel and the alleged denial of due process; and the “excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli military.” The only passage even remotely resembling a reference to Palestinian terror was an ambiguous statement of moral equivalence: “Rights & Democracy condemns all violence by all actors in Israel and the Occupied Territories, including territories under the Palestinian National Authority.” The R&D statement ended with a series of demands, including: “the end of Israeli occupation in the Occupied Territories, including East Jersusalem”; “the establishment of a Palestinian state with sovereignty over borders and natural resources”; and “the right of return for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forced into exile since 1948.”
In an open letter to Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham in April 2002, R&D called for the deployment of an international peacekeeping force coupled with the “full withdrawal of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.” Added R&D: “We believe that the Israeli occupation is the root cause of the Palestinian crisis.”
On April 3, 2012, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird announced that Rights & Democracy would be closed due to “many challenges” and “as part of our efforts to find efficiencies and savings,” and that “its functions will be brought within Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.”
This profile is adapted, with permission, from the NGO Monitor.