The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, based in Warsaw, was established in 1989. Its creation was preceded by the seven year of activity of the Helsinki Committee in Poland, which existed in the underground since 1982. Following the transformation of Poland’s political system in 1989, the Committee’s members decided to come out into the open and establish an independent foundation, which was to carry out educational and research related activities in the field of human rights. Because the law which was then in force did not allow the establishment of independent institutes, it was decided that a foundation would be created to fulfil this role.
Currently, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights is one of the most experienced and professional non-government organisations active in the field of human rights in Europe.
The Foundation funds its activities thanks to grants from large foundations, such as: the Ford Foundation, Open Society Institute, Charles Stewart MOTT Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Stefan Batory Foundation, The German Marshall Fund, Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, The Freedom House; also from non-government organisations that co-operate with us, like: The Swedish Section of the International Commission of Jurists, The Dutch Helsinki Committee, the IDEE; from international institutes, like: The Council of Europe, OSCE/ODHIR, from European Union and United Nations funds, as well as from private sponsors.
Co-operation with other organisations and institutions
Since the beginning of its existence, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has implemented joint activities with numerous international and foreign organisations and institutions. Among them we can name:
- on the international level:
The Council of Europe (The Human Rights Board), The UN Human Rights Centre, The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), Minority Rights Group International, Amnesty International, Penal Reform International, ELSA, International Commission of Jurists, International Institute for Human Rights - Strasbourg, etc.
Numerous national Helsinki Committees (for example: The Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Czech, Slovak, Russian, Albanian, etc.), The Memorial, the Public Interest Law Initiative (Columbia University in New York), the Centre for National Security Studies (Washington DC), INTERIGHTS - London, Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, numerous national assemblies of judges and attorneys, etc.
We have implemented, and continue to realise joint programmes, with The Stefan Batory Foundation, The Polish Office of the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, The Young Journalists’ Association POLIS, The Centre for Constitutionalism and Legal Culture of the Institute of Public Affairs, and the Robert Schuman Foundation, amongst others.
The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights also offers professional consultations in the field of problems concerning the violation of personal and political rights and the implementation of educational programmes, both to very numerous non-government organisations, as well as state institutions (the police, the judiciary, the prison system, the immigration service, etc.) we constantly co-operate with the Sejm’s Research and Analysis Office and with parliamentary commissions.
The beneficiaries of various courses organised by the Foundation, include members of a few dozen domestic non-government organisations and over a hundred organisations.
We maintain constant contact with the graduates of our School on Human Rights. Over half of the 769 people strong group of graduates (information from July 2005) co-operates with us as volunteers during the clarification of particular cases, carried out by the Foundation in the areas of their residence (the observation of court proceedings, visits at prisons and detention facilities) and participates in the monitoring activities that we carry out. Over 20 volunteers, for the most part students, help out with the Foundation’s everyday work. The number of people, who are willing to help, exceeds our needs. A large group of lawyers (scholars and practitioners), as well as research workers from other fields of study (sociology, psychology, history, etc.), maintains continuous contact with the Foundation and offers its collective knowledge, skills and expertise in accordance to the needs of the Foundation.