A look back at the Response and Vision Fund’s 2020 Initiative.

In September 2020, the Response and Vision Fund first launched with the goal of building and shifting power to workers and frontline communities; holding corporate, financial, and government actors accountable; and shaping economic recovery to promote systemic change. This first round included eight initiatives who received a total of nearly $1 million USD for up to 12 months.  

At the core of much of this grantmaking is the creation of a cross-movement coalition of human rights and social and environmental justice organizations, with strong links to movements and grassroots organizations. One grantee, the International Trade Unions Confederation, organized innovative online modules during the lockdown to create a venue for workers to discuss stimulus packages and rally their voices around their needs and lived experiences.  These initiatives help hold governments and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) accountable for the human rights impacts of their economic responses to COVID-19, and increase pressure on them to  ensure a just recovery. 

The research, policy briefings, public statements, and calls to action produced by funded initiatives have also been used as a basis for public policy discussions with financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund.  The Centre for Economic and Social Rights, for example, produced Recovering Rights, a series of 12 papers on the importance of centring the recovery on the people. Along the same lines, DerechoAmbiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR) and its allies developed an Early Warning System to monitor the responses of selected Development Finance Institutions (DFIs). This system has become the basis for a country-level analysis report that will show DFI trends and behavior during the pandemic. 

In terms of the corporate sector, the garment industry has been brought to the spotlight by several initiatives that have worked to ensure that companies pay for canceled orders. The #PayUp Campaign (coordinated by Remake) and the Workers Right Consortium have helped recoup 22 billion USD in canceled orders from 25 brands and retailers. In a similar vein, Migrant Forum Asia has positioned the wage theft of migrant workers as one of the priority topics of the global human rights agenda for this year, based on its work documenting more than 1000 cases of wage theft and providing migrant workers with legal advice. Documentation efforts have also been used by the Shojag coalition in Bangladesh to establish dialogue and seek shared solutions with the corporate sector concerning the characteristics of the recovery packages and the companies that are benefitting from them.  Thanks to legal and direct support strategies, the International Domestic Workers Federation developed policy briefs to promote more inclusive and gender-equal economic recovery programs and, at the same time, provided 4,807 domestic workers from 8 of its affiliates with relief packages. 

Inspired by the progress of the first slate of initiatives, FORGE members have followed an iterative learning process to identify thematic gaps and intersections, for its second slate of grantees. The new round of initiatives will build on and complement those of the first slate and support the development of a new economic model that works for the people and the planet. While nearly a year has passed since the onset of the pandemic, the challenges continue to mount. The Response and Vision Fund will continue to support innovative and collaborative efforts to uplift workers, migrants, and marginalized groups in the spirit of building back better and reimagining and transforming an economic model that works for the people and the planet.