Friday, February 25, 2011

Are Human Rights Watch Inc. Executives Making Big Money From Human Rights Monitoring Industry?

Being an executive at a U.S. power elite foundation-subsidized human rights monitoring NGO in the United States in the 21st-century can apparently be a lucrative gig. Human Rights Watch Inc. Executive Director Kenneth Roth, for example took home an annual salary/total compensation package of $412,607 between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009, according to Human Rights Watch Inc.’s form 990 financial filing for 2009. In addition, nine other Human Rights Watch Inc. executives were also given annual salary/total compensation packages that exceeded $167,000 during this same period by the U.S.-based human rights monitoring NGO.

Of the $45 million in foundation “charitable” grants and rich individual donor contributions received by Human Rights Watch Inc. between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009, $27 million was spent on just paying the salaries of Human Rights Watch Inc.’s employees; and in 2009, the “non-profit,’ tax-exempt U.S.-based Human Rights Watch Inc. human rights monitoring firm controlled over $122 million in assets—including, apparently, corporate stock in various transnational corporations that exploit working-class human beings in both the United States and foreign countries.


Anonymous said...

Ah, someone is asking / answering the questions that Jeune Afrique avoided or did not remember.

Anonymous said...

I too am concerned about executive compensation, but this criticism might be a bit more complicated than it appears. The work being done by human rights watch isn't food distribution. It is incredibly important work done through reporting, advocacy, the legal system and the like. Therefore program expenses are in fact likely to include salaries and sure to account for much of the budget. Salaried individuals are necessary to do the work that is the thrust of this organization.

While it is surely important to examine executive compensation and other salary levels at non-profit and advocacy organizations, it is also important to understand the nature of the work being done by an organization and to look at the numbers carefully. I personally feel that the compensation level of HRW's exec is SADLY high, and were I in his shoes, I would feel more than a bit uncomfortable using .66% of the budget for myself, but perhaps others may disagree and find that he is worth the conpensation level he receives.

But the critique of TOTAL salary is ill conceived. Perhpas the more telling numbers are those given by charity navigator - a neutral org that evaluates financials on behalf of donors. Their analysis is that HRW is using its funds for program expenses at a very high level. They are not a beast that is simply feeding on fundraising, like California's Police Activities League, for example. (A charity that is particularly irksome to me as they call you at home representing the police and "asking" firmly for donations. Sigh.)

b.f. said...

The victims of human rights violations that HRW Inc. executives monitor and produce reports about are not awarded such inflated annual salaries/grants.

Nor do most grassroots activists and journalists who often expose human rights violations before HRW issues their own press releases/reports require such inflated salaries to motivate themselves to expose human rights violations. So why should HRW executives require such inflated salaries?

Tax-exempt money should not be used to pay executives of tax-exempt "non-profit" groups like HRW more than the average U.S. worker earns. And if charity navigator's analysis concluded that "HRW is using its funds for program expenses at a very high level" despite HRW executives using donor funds to pay such inflated annual salaries to themselves, that would seem to indicate that the "charity navigator" is not actually a "neutral org." (Perhaps one should examine the source of charity nevigator's funding?

In addition, a conflict-of-interest/ethical issue seems to exist when an organization that claims to be working to promote human rights is financing itself, in part, from the dividends it receives from the stock it owns in various transnational corporations that profit from doing business in countries where human rights are still being violated.