Soros Donates $100 Million To Human Rights Watch Billionaire George Soros announces a new initiative Tuesday. The founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations will be making a gift of $100 million over 10 years to the nonprofit group Human Rights Watch. Steve Inskeep speaks to philanthropist George Soros about his initiative.
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Soros Donates $100 Million To Human Rights Watch

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Soros Donates $100 Million To Human Rights Watch

Soros Donates $100 Million To Human Rights Watch

Soros Donates $100 Million To Human Rights Watch

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/129693150/129693136" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Billionaire George Soros announces a new initiative Tuesday. The founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations will be making a gift of $100 million over 10 years to the nonprofit group Human Rights Watch. Steve Inskeep speaks to philanthropist George Soros about his initiative.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

What is your history with Human Rights Watch?

GEORGE SOROS: And that has become a drawback, because America has lost the moral high ground for promoting human rights. So I want the organization to become truly international with maybe the American members in a minority.

INSKEEP: I was speaking with someone from the organization who's pointing out that the way that Human Rights Watch traditionally will work. They'll send somebody to a country like Nigeria or Pakistan - pick your country - report on what's going on there, and try to expose that. They may try to get pressure through the media on a country's government. They may try to get pressure from the West, from the United States or from Britain or from France - pressure put on that government. How would that set up change if the gift that you're giving is successful?

SOROS: That the people doing the investigations won't necessarily be Americans, that people from the countries themselves or from the region - let's say Asia - that what happens in Burma would be investigated by people from Malaysia. Because right now, in many parts of the world, it's regarded as an American imperialist agent, so to speak, and therefore, it's disregarded. But when the citizens of that country themselves are engaged, then hopefully the democratic governments will respond to it.

INSKEEP: Is it going to be harder to promote a human rights agenda in a world where a country like China, they do more and more business around the world and pushing other countries on their human rights records is just not part of their method?

SOROS: Actually, that's one of the problems that the movement is facing. And the other one is that the United States has lost the moral high ground, that under the Bush administration, there have been many human rights violations committed by Americans. And that has sort of endangered the credibility, the legitimacy of Americans being in the forefront of advocating human rights. And that is a big, big setback for the movement.

INSKEEP: That's an interesting point. We had former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the program last week, and he addressed that point somewhat and argued that the U.S. and other countries in the West should not feel too insecure on this point, that whatever problems there have been, people in the rest of the world still want the kinds of freedoms that are available in the West.

SOROS: That is correct. But we have got to correct our own record. And we really have to recognize the excesses that were committed in connection with Iraqi war and correct the record. Otherwise, it's going to weigh on us forever.

INSKEEP: I'm told that this is structured as a challenge grant. You're putting up $100 million, but you want Human Rights Watch to find $100 million from somewhere else.

SOROS: Right.

INSKEEP: Do you think that there are billionaires in Brazil, India, even Russia and China that might be able to put up some of that money?

SOROS: Yes. Yes. But I hope that the appeal will also attract others that maybe are less. You know, the smaller contributions will also be helpful.

INSKEEP: Mr. Soros, may I ask how old you are now?

SOROS: Eighty.

INSKEEP: Is this one of the gifts by which you would like to be remembered?

SOROS: Yes. I mean, this is a time to begin to endow the organizations that I really believe in.

INSKEEP: Thanks very much.

SOROS: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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