Human rights are inalienable, universal rights belonging to every single human being, irrespective of race, religion or creed. We raise awareness of human rights issues around the world via our news coverage and by training local journalists to report accurately on these issues.

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Human rights are fundamental to our mission because societies cannot be free, fair or equal without respect for these rights. These rights are firmly enshrined in international law, most notably in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been ratified by most national governments around the world.

For as long as the Thomson Reuters Foundation has existed, protecting and advancing human rights has been at the core of our work. Whether it be reporting on human rights issues, training journalists around the world to do the same, providing free legal support and impactful research to frontline organisations, or convening diverse and global actors in this space, all our work has been focused on empowering individuals and helping to strengthen free, fair and informed societies. While human rights underpin all of what we do, our work is grounded in the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles of independence, integrity, and freedom from bias.

The fight to secure or defend human rights around the world is ongoing, with basic freedoms and access to necessities being eroded, threatened or failing to exist entirely. At the same time, the technological revolution has created multiple evolving and complex threats to human rights – with grave concerns about privacy, discrimination and exploitation, to name but a few.

What we do

We work to shape public discourse about new and ongoing human rights issues through our own news coverage as well as our journalism training, legal support and research for NGOs influencing policy change, and by seeking out experts and activists with whom we can work to advance human rights, with the aim of:

  • Highlighting some of the most critical human rights issues
  • Driving policy change to advance human rights
  • Leading collaborative approaches to amplify impact at scale

Our human rights work centres on thematic issues including:

  • Freedom of speech and expression
  • Climate
  • Data and digital rights
  • Forced labour and human trafficking
  • Women’s rights
  • LGBTQ+ rights


Ground-breaking journalism

Reporting from the ground in more than 70 countries, our global news team covers the most critical issues of today and their impact on people. Context - our digital news platform - focuses on an array of human rights focused topics including socio-economic inclusion, the just transition and the impact of technology on society. In-depth analysis is enriched with local insight, human-centred stories and the perspectives of those working at the forefront of pioneering solutions.

Fair, accurate and impartial LGBTQ+ news is published on our dedicated platform, Openly.

CASE STUDYInvestigation into claims of sexual abuse by aid workers in the Congo

Our investigation into widespread allegations of abuse of women by Ebola aid workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, conducted over a year in collaboration with The New Humanitarian, found that more than 50 women accused aid workers from the World Health Organization and other leading NGOs of sexual exploitation and abuse during the 2018 to 2020 Ebola crisis – despite “zero tolerance” policies and pledges to crack down on such abuses.

Women interviewed by our reporters said that numerous men had either propositioned them or forced them to have sex in exchange for jobs, and that contracts were often terminated when these improper solicitations were refused. The story received global coverage, appearing in more than 700 international publications.

As a result of the investigation, five of the seven UN agencies and NGOs named in the exposé launched dedicated inquiries, with the World Health Organization – the institution with the largest number of allegations levelled against it – the first to say that all claims would be “robustly investigated” and that anyone found to be involved would face serious consequences, including instant dismissal.

The Foundation and The New Humanitarian subsequently gave evidence to UK lawmakers seeking to stamp out abuse in the aid sector, and the UK has since banned sexual relations between government staff giving aid and people receiving it.

Our follow-up investigation with The New Humanitarian uncovered a further 22 allegations by Congolese women of sexual abuse by aid workers - including rape and unwanted pregnancies - in the city of Butembo during the Ebola outbreak. Seven organisations - including three UN agencies - were named in the piece, with 14 claims made against the World Health Organization.



We investigated India’s illegal mica mines in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, to reveal that children as young as five had been working to source the shiny mineral that puts the sparkle in make-up and paint. Our three-month multimedia investigation also found that seven children had died in the mines, and that their deaths had been covered up by their own parents for fear of retaliation and financial losses.

The findings were backed up by India’s child protection group Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) – the organisation funded by Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi – which separately documented more than 20 mica-related deaths in June 2016. Our investigation received worldwide coverage, and a few weeks after its publication the biggest carmaker in the world, Volkswagen, announced it had suspended ties with some mica suppliers in India. India’s Ministry of Mines admitted it lacked an effective mechanism to inspect the mica mines.



Coverage of the LGBT+ community tends to be conducted through an LGBT+ lens, resulting in an ‘echo chamber’ approach. This has created the perception that LGBT+ news is akin to advocacy and lacks journalistic authority. LGBT+ news is also provided by a limited number of small web-only outlets, predominantly offering content with a US or UK focus. There was a therefore a clear gap in the market for an authoritative digital platform offering fair, accurate and balanced news reporting that reflects the issues affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community around the world.

In 2018, we created Openly for this very purpose. Openly is a global digital platform delivering fair, accurate and impartial LGBT+ news to a world that isn’t. Powered by original coverage from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Openly also aggregates select LGBT+ news and authoritative reports from other sources, with the ambition of becoming the ultimate destination for trusted LGBT+ news and information from around the world.


CASE STUDYBrunei and Uganda’s death penalty laws for LGBTQ+ people

We were the first to break the news, in March 2019, that Brunei planned to implement delayed changes to its law introducing stoning to death and whipping for gay sex and adultery. Our story was picked up and published in a long list of other national and international publications, leading to a global backlash and boycott of Brunei-owned businesses that led to the proposed changes being shelved.

We were first globally with the news that Uganda was going reintroduce a bill to parliament that would impose the death penalty for gay sex. As a result of our coverage all major aid donors to Uganda expressed concern and outrage, prompting the government to announce that there would be no such bill.


Legal research and support

Our pro bono legal network connects organisations working at the frontline of advancing human rights around the world, with lawyers who can assist with their legal needs for free.

CASE STUDYEnding FGM in Africa

Across the African continent, 55 million girls are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), half of whom live in three countries that already have legislation around the practice. We connected 28 Too Many – a UK-based charity working to eradicate FGM in the 28 African countries in which it is still practised – with a team of more than 120 lawyers. Coordinated by law firm Latham & Watkins, the team worked tirelessly to produce ground-breaking reports that highlight examples of best practice, lessons learned, and recommendations for the formation of sound legal frameworks that will contribute to the global elimination of FGM. The resulting reports are already having an impact in multiple African countries and are being used by a range of stakeholders.

In Kenya, the country report is helping local and international FGM activists in a court case against Kenyan medic, Dr Tatu Kamau. In Egypt, it has been used in conversation with parliamentarians, and in Geneva 28 Too Many presented their findings to the Human Rights Council.


CASE STUDYEnding child marriage in the US

It’s increasingly recognised worldwide that child marriage, defined as a formal marriage or informal union before the age of 18, is a human rights violation and a serious barrier to socio-economic development. The US named the fight against child marriage as a foreign policy objective, yet the early or forced marriage of children is ongoing in the country. While most US states set 18 as the minimum age for marriage, exceptions in every jurisdiction exist. According to marriage licence data collected by advocacy group Unchained At Last, the only US non-profit dedicated to ending child and forced marriage in the country, more than 167,000 children as young as 12 were married in 38 states in the US between 2000 and 2010. The organisation estimates nearly a quarter of a million children were married across all US states between 2000 and 2010.

We connected Unchained At Last with law firm White & Case, to assist with free legal advice to underpin their advocacy efforts and outlaw child marriage in New Jersey. Following months of campaigning by the group, in November 2016 the New Jersey Assembly voted in favour of the new law, and in March 2017 the bill was passed by the state senate. Unchained at Last continues its partnership with White & Case, writing, introducing and advocating for legislation, state by state, to ensure that the entire country enshrines 18 as the absolute minimum age for marriage in law, with no exceptions allowed. The scope of the pro bono research has since been expanded to cover other US states, including California, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

CASE STUDYProtecting victims of sextortion worldwide

Sextortion’ is a pervasive, yet under-reported, form of corruption involving sexual exploitation, such as: judges demanding sex in exchange for visas or favourable custody decisions; landlords threatening to evict tenants unless they have sex with them; supervisors making job security contingent on sex; and principals conditioning student graduation on sex. Today the crime has become digital, and women, as well as children, are especially vulnerable.

In 2015, in collaboration with the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) and a global team of law firms (Marval, O’Farrell and Mairal, Hogan Lovells, Mishcon De Reya, Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa, Simba & Simba Advocates, Torys LLP and Rakhee Ditta), we launched the guide ‘Combating Sextortion: A Comparative Study of Laws to Prosecute Corruption Involving Sexual Exploitation’. The study outlined laws and practices relating to the crime in nine jurisdictions, spanning six continents: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Kenya, Mexico, Taiwan, Uganda and the United Kingdom.

In 2016, together with Legal Momentum and law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, we produced a report entitled ‘A Call to Action: Ending ‘Sextortion’ in the Digital Age’, taking a more specific look at the United States and at how sextortion has evolved.

Following the publication of the research, Legal Momentum and Orrick embarked on a nation-wide advocacy campaign to update state laws to take into account ‘sextortion’. Within a few months, Utah, Arkansas and Alabama had passed the first pieces of legislation in the US which make ‘sextortion’ a punishable crime.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation has been instrumental in helping us launch and sustain cutting-edge projects that protect the rights of girls and women both nationally and internationally.
Carol Robles-Román, President and CEO, Legal Momentum


CASE STUDYBan on conversion therapy for LGBT youth in Illinois

We connected LGBT-rights NGO Equality Illinois and international law firm Kirkland & Ellis, which produced legal research used to advocate for the ban of conversion therapy for LGBT youth in Illinois. The research looked at federal and state laws regarding the ban of gay conversion therapy as well as the gay and transgender ‘panic defence’, a tactic invoked against charges of assault or murder where the defendant claims to have acted in a state of temporary insanity triggered by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

In May 2015, the Youth Mental Health Protection Act was passed, banning the practice of conversion therapy on minors in the state of Illinois. Equality Illinois continued to advocate for a bill to make the ‘gay panic’ defence inadmissible in the courts of Illinois, and succeeded when it was officially banned in August 2017.


CASE STUDYEnsuring justice for survivors of acid violence

Acid violence is on the rise, with several thousand attacks occurring across the world every year. However, only a few countries have passed specific laws in relation to the crime. One of the biggest challenges faced by NGOs working on this issue is a lack of information on the effectiveness of existing laws and the way they have been interpreted by the courts. We connected Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI) with Baker & McKenzie, J. Sagar Associates, Linklaters and P&A Asia, to produce a comparative study on laws and case law relating to acid violence. The result was the groundbreaking report, ‘Justice? What justice? Tackling acid violence and ensuring justice for survivors’, which analyses data from four different jurisdictions – Cambodia, Colombia, India and the United Kingdom – presenting a comparative legislative framework to assess how acid attack survivors are treated and how perpetrators are punished.

The report is now being used by ASTI as an advocacy tool to secure political and judiciary support and to ensure justice for the survivors of acid violence worldwide. In 2018, after a series of meetings and consultations with ASTI and other stakeholders, the UK Home office announced a series of significant policy changes, including but not limited to listing acid as a potentially dangerous weapon in sentencing guidelines and, under changes to the Poisons Act, requiring members of the public wishing to import, acquire or use sulphuric acid above 15% have to obtain a Home Office licence.

The report informed much of our work when developing policy briefings for parliamentarians and representatives from the British government’s Home Office. It proved essential to ASTI’s advocacy and awareness-raising work.
Jaf Shah, Executive Director, ASTI


CASE STUDY‘Know Your Voting Rights’ Guide for People Experiencing Homelessness

In partnership with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) and law firm Goodwin Procter, TrustLaw, our global pro bono service, launched ‘You Don’t Need a Home to Vote’, a ‘know your rights’ guide to voting across the 50 U.S. states for people experiencing homelessness. This guide covered key questions on registering to vote and voting during the 2020 elections, including practical information about establishing a registered address to vote, finding polling places, voting by mail and voting with a criminal record.

Working with the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the National Low-Income Housing Center, the NLCHP disseminated the guide to all national state and local organisations that address homelessness and poverty, with the goal of having a meaningful impact in upholding the fundamental right to vote during a critical election time in the U.S.


CASE STUDYSecuring social standards for inmates

In partnership with law firm White & Case, TrustLaw facilitated a comparative legal report titled ‘Prison Labor: Its Regulation’. The analysis was used by La Cana, a non-profit organisation working to secure social standards for inmates in Mexico and across the region. The report compares how prison work is regulated in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Spain, and was used by La Cana to draft a bill that was presented to the Mexican Congress. The research was also referenced in two major newspapers in Mexico: Periódico Excélsior and ABC Noticias.


Journalism training

We run courses and mentorship programmes to help journalists navigate the complexities of reporting human rights issues, from trafficking and slavery to women’s rights and LGBTQ+ issues. All courses are tailored to the needs relating to the geographic areas in which the journalists operate.

CASE STUDYStateless Uzbek woman in Kyrgyzstan awarded citizenship

Journalists participating in our Perspektivy programme, which aims to strengthen independent media in Russian-speaking countries through workshops, mentoring and network-building, uncovered the plight of 17,000 stateless Uzbek women fighting to gain citizenship and social rights in Kyrgyzstan. The investigation attracted global media attention and led the President of Kyrgyzstan to grant citizenship to the protagonist of the film.

CASE STUDYTargeting malaria through media training

Progress against diminishing deaths from malaria have stalled, with excess deaths caused by shortfalls in prevention and treatment, whilst public awareness has plateaued. Meanwhile, the pandemic and other economic and pressing health issues have absorbed the media’s attention.

In response, the Foundation ran journalism training programmes in English and French for journalists based across sub-Saharan Africa – where malaria killed 384,000 people in 2019 and 385,000 in 2018 [WHO] – to equip local media to produce accurate, reliable and trusted reporting on this disease. Stories published as a result of our training programme helped to shed light on the human impact of the disease, with one Kenyan participant reporting that pregnant women were missing critical malaria drugs due to hospital shortages.

Strategic initiatives

The unique approach underpinning the Foundation’s strategic initiatives is to harness the combined power of the media and the law. Using our expertise in these areas, we deploy all our services in the design and execution of initiatives to maximise impact.

CASE STUDYBreaking down human rights barriers to accessing healthcare

We are working in partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to support its innovative ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ initiative, with a focus on gender and LGBT+ human rights-related barriers. The Foundation is facilitating legal research and legal capacity-building for civil society partners in key countries supported by the Global Fund. This includes pro bono research on human rights laws, as well as capacity-building workshops for health practitioners, service providers and their clients, and legal guidance for NGOs and civil society groups working in countries with challenging political situations.

The programme also provides training for journalists across eastern and southern Africa to strengthen reporting skills on human rights and health related issues, and to support awareness-raising on human rights-related barriers to health.

CASE STUDYCombating the worst forms of child labour in Africa

From 2018 – 2022, we were a member of the Partnership Against Child Exploitation (PACE) – a consortium of partners, led by World Vision UK and including War Child UK, Columbia University, the UN Global Compact Network and Fifty Eight, working to combat the worst forms of child labour in three African countries. With support from the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the four-year Aid Connect initiative focused on Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, and leveraged cross-sector expertise to strengthen safeguards against child exploitation in communities and global supply chains, to support law enforcement to hold perpetrators to account, and to build children’s agency to advocate for their own rights.

At a time when the number of children in the worst forms of child labour is rising globally, by addressing the management of global supply chains, strengthening legislative frameworks, shedding light on the issue through media coverage, and empowering survivors to articulate their experiences, the project aimed to change the lives thousands of children, while simultaneously building a knowledge base for what types of intervention are most effective in tackling the scourge. This work included mobilising the business sector to examine more effective models for supply chain due diligence, as well as supporting local policymakers and government officials to help tackle the worst forms of child labour at a national level.


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