Weekly Insights and Analysis

KaSaMa: A Novel Approach in Donor Funding for Human Rights

October 14, 2009

By Carolyn A. Mercado

What will bring five embassies, the European Union, and The Asia Foundation together for collaboration?

What will make diverse organizations reframe the way they do things, specifically in the area of funding, and adopt an approach that provides them a strategic opportunity to work collectively in the area of human rights?

During a recent donor’s forum, one of the regular meetings initiated and hosted by The Asia Foundation, an idea was proposed to hold a mini-“Development Marketplace” in order to encourage civil society groups and human rights organizations to devise innovative proposals to fund programs that address current human rights issues in the Philippines. Development Marketplace, a term coined by the World Bank in 1998 for the first Global Development Marketplace (DM) initiative, became a launching pad for new and creative ideas and approaches to development issues. From the Global Development Marketplace evolved the country-level Development Marketplace, which in the Philippines is widely known as “Panibagong Paraan” or New Way. The Foundation has consistently been an active partner and donor of Panibagong Paraan.

Following Panibagong Paraan’s lead, the Foundation developed a concept paper that gave birth to “KaSaMa.” As a word, it is Filipino for “together;” as an acronym, it stands for Karapatan Sa Malikhaing Paraan, or Rights in a Creative Way. KaSaMa is a clarion call for Filipinos to transform traditional human rights advocacy into innovative and bold steps. KaSaMa is an attempt to search for alternative approaches, to encourage the development of daring and creative ideas that address pressing challenges to civil and political rights, as well as economic, social, or cultural rights.

KaSaMa is both a competition and a forum to educate the public on human rights. The competitive grant program, “2009 Search for Philippine Innovative Human Rights Initiative,” will identify and fund innovative, early-stage projects with high potential for impact. The event will be held in December during human rights week in the form of a Knowledge Fair and Exhibit where donors will be able to interact with civil society and human rights groups experimenting with new approaches in human rights promotion and protection.

KaSaMa is a collective response by donors to combat practices that violate human rights. It is a concerted effort to combat the culture of impunity that results from a paucity of convictions in courts. In general, it is a reflection of the fundamental principles of human dignity, to guarantee rights and freedoms, and secure their effective recognition and observance. Everyone everywhere has human rights but not everyone everywhere enjoys and respects these rights.

With funding from the embassies of Australia, Britain, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Spain, the European Commission, and The Asia Foundation (the latter as both secretariat and donor), KaSaMa [] will be the heart and muscle of something that is new, something that is budding, and something that promises to be great. Together, these donors are becoming the instruments of, and inspirations for, a positive change for human rights in the Philippines.

Carolyn Mercado is The Asia Foundation’s Director for Law and Human Rights in the Philippines. On Nov. 3, 2009, she will deliver a lecture entitled “Prospects for a Regional Human Rights Court in Southeast Asia” at Stanford University’s Center of Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. She can be reached at


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In Asia is a weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia\’s development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, In Asia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.

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