Human rights charities 'attract more complaints'

Charities working on human rights issues receive more complaints than charities working in other fields because of the contentious and often high-profile nature of their work, a new report by the Charity Commission has revealed.

The study is the first of its kind since the promotion of human rights became a charitable purpose in its own right in 2002. Charities working in this field make up only 0.1 per cent of the register. Their number has grown sharply since 2002, but many prominent organisations, such as Liberty and Human Rights Watch, are still not registered as charities but as not-for-profit organisations.

Their combined income is worth £160m, with the three largest in the field – the United Kingdom Committee for Unicef, the Thailand Burma Border Consortium and Amnesty International Charity Limited – accounting for £90m.

The regulator observed that charities promoting human rights generally had the same governance arrangements as other charities, but it highlighted that independence appeared even more important to them because of the sensitive nature of their work. This also affected their funding because many refused money from government.

The very international nature of their work (82 per cent of human rights charities work internationally, whereas 76 per cent of registered charities work locally) also made it difficult to raise funds because donors were unfamiliar with the issues.

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