Organizations aiming to bolster human rights are nothing new. The concept of human rights dates back to the Renaissance, after all. But fighting for human rights on a truly global scale in this age of multicultural despotism, divisive politics and social media watch-dogging requires a new approach. Enter the Human Rights Foundation (HRF). Founded in New York in 2005 by human rights activist and filmmaker Thor Halvorssen, HRF works tirelessly to stay out of the political fray, and disrupt it at the same time.
The organization advocates for human rights and works to liberate the world’s political prisoners without regard to politics, focusing on closed societies. It doesn’t matter if the oppressors are right-winged authoritarians or leftist totalitarians. Both fall under HRF’s purview. The non-profit condemns violence, advocating for individual rights through a broad range of peaceful initiatives. They create educational programs in closed societies, provide legal expertise and amicus briefs in international human rights cases, produce films and books on the struggle for individual rights and host human rights seminars.
Thor Halvorssen began the OFF in 2009 and still serves as CEO. The annual event brings together global human rights activists, former heads of state, Nobel Prize winners, technology leaders, entrepreneurs, writers, artists, filmmakers, scholars, and others. Their collective goal is to raise human rights to the top of the world’s agenda.
Thor Halvorssen’s background is Norwegian and Venezuelan. He began his crusade for human rights in London in 1989 by organizing opposition to South African apartheid. Halvorssen was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania when his father became a political prisoner in Venezuela in 1993.
After college, Thor Halvorssen co-founded the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (the FIRE) which fights for rights on college campuses in the United States. Halvorssen served as the FIRE’s Executive Director and CEO from 1999 until 2004. It was after his mother was shot and wounded during a political protest in 2004 in Caracas that Halvorssen founded the Human Rights Foundation.