Did you know that we have a network of almost 100 journalists reporting and investigating how climate change affects the lives of people around the world? Did you know that TrustLaw – our service providing free legal assistance – has 50 law firms in India and nine law firms in mainland China?
The impact of our work is truly global. This new series will highlight some of the results we have achieved across different regions. This month, the focus is on Africa.
The world’s under-reported stories
One of the main services of the Thomson Reuters Foundation is devoted entirely to news and information. Our team of journalists, comprising 27 full time reporters located around the world and a growing network of over 100 stringers, reports the world’s under-reported stories, the ‘forgotten’ crises that rarely make mainstream headlines: natural disasters, conflicts, refugees, hunger crises, human rights, epidemics and the human impact of climate change. The Foundation’s news service has become an essential tool for relief and aid workers, policy makers, students, journalists and the general public.
The Foundation’s correspondents in Africa, Katy Migiro and Misha Hussain, have highlighted pressing issues across the continent, from the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The Foundation’s journalists also provide in-depth coverage of anti-corruption and transparency issues across Africa; in 2013 this included an exclusive report on “dirty money” flows through Kenya.
Polls with an Impact
In the past three years, the Foundation has developed a number of innovative rankings that put women’s rights at the heart of the news agenda. These perception polls have had tremendous impact as they have been used by many NGOs and activists as a tool to lobby their respective governments and demand social change.
All three perception polls conducted by the Foundation have ranked African countries. In the 2012 poll, titled ‘The Best and Worst G20 Countries in which to be a Woman,’ South Africa occupied the 16th place out of the 19 nations polled (the EU, as the 20th member of G20, was not rated).
Free Legal Assistance
TrustLaw is the Foundation’s award-winning service providing free legal assistance to NGOs and social enterprises. Founded in 2010 by Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO Monique Villa, the team has worked on nearly 190 pro bono projects in sub-Saharan Africa, ranging from everyday commercial matters to large international comparative research programmes.
TrustLaw Connect currently has more than 160 members in the region. Through the TrustLaw network, 90 law firms are now providing pro bono support across Africa, amounting to $35 million worth of legal assistance.
In Africa, a shortage of legal assistance often hampers the scale and impact of work undertaken by NGOs and social enterprises. TrustLaw aims to fill that gap by providing free legal help through its network of more than 90,000 lawyers.
Cross-border legal research has been provided to the Southern African AIDS Trust (SAT) to improve access to HIV self-testing in Africa. Self-testing has not been widely implemented, and in many African countries is unregulated and performed informally. Through TrustLaw, Arnold & Porter and nine other law firms conducted research to help SAT better understand the legal framework and human rights implications of self-testing. As a result, SAT is now engaged in efforts to mobilize resources to implement pilot projects for the equitable and inclusive roll-out of self-testing in some of its programme countries.
Promoting Free Independent Journalism
The Foundation supports journalism excellence through a number of different initiatives: the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, devoted to innovative and comparative international research; the training of hundreds of journalists around the world; and the creation of news platforms for independent media.
The Foundation has trained over 12,000 reporters and media professionals in locations including Benin, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa, and Tanzania. Courses on offer are designed to enhance ethical and professional standards of, and to contribute to sustaining and developing, a free media in Africa.
In addition to that, the Foundation supports two innovative news platforms across the African continent. Aswat Masriya, the Foundation’s Arabic and English news service in Egypt, was instrumental in providing the world’s media with accurate and objective news throughout the political upheavals. In 2013 the Foundation launched The Source in Zimbabwe, an independent financial and business news service providing investors and media organisations with greater access to news and analysis. Supported by both the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the European Journalism Centre, The Source is run entirely by a team of Zimbabwean journalists and has been successful in throwing light on the country’s fast-changing economic environment.
Together with Norad, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the Foundation has also launched a major initiative to help African media investigate and expose financial crimes that rob nations of billions. Tax evasion, money laundering, counterfeiting and other forms of illicit money flows are choking the potential of many African economies. The Foundation believes that African media has a vital role to play in bringing this issue to light and exposing tax abuse where it is taking place. The initiative will launch in late 2014.
Trust Women: A Growing Women’s Rights Movement
Trust Women is a global movement with a clear mission: to put the full force of the law behind women’s rights and to take action. In 2013, global leaders from 40 countries, including Tunisia, Egypt, Somaliland, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, attended the second annual Trust Women Conference in London. High-level speakers from Africa included Edna Adan, Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Somaliland and Founder of Edna Adan Maternity Hospital; Amira Yahyaoui, human rights activist, Tunisia; Xav Hagen. The 2014 conference will focus on human trafficking and women’s economic empowerment, including access to land and unlocking the social and economic potential of women.