Social development across the globe during the 21st century seems to depend upon world leaders and philanthropy. But, other individuals, organizations, and movements have made headway as well. While politics seems to be the weight that holds all rights movements down, some legislation passed since 2000 that also proved helpful to the disabled, women, children, and domestic workers. While some headway has been made locally and globally, social services are needed more than ever to help individuals through natural disasters, economic downturns, health crises, and family and community issues.
- Barack Obama: Forty-three percent of white Americans voted for Obama (not quite a majority) in 2008, when he won the seat as the 44th President of the U.S., and the first African-American president. As president, Obama’s positions on jobs, healthcare, women’s rights, and education all lean toward a civil rights agenda; but his tendency to cave in to moneyed elite concerns leaves his critics unconvinced. Obama was born in 1961, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement direct-action phase that included sit-ins, freedom rides, marches, and boycotts. Voting rights and segregation emerged at that time as the two central issues.
- Farhana Khera: Khera is the first Executive Director and founder of Muslim Advocates. Muslim Advocates came into existence after 9-11 and the Patriot Act. Focused on religious and racial profiling, the work of Muslim Advocates in many ways signals the expansion of the traditional civil rights movement. Muslim Advocates emerged in 2005 as a 501(c)(3) sister entity to the National Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML), a professional association of approximately 500 Muslim lawyers, law students and other legal professionals.
- George Soros: According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Soros gave $332 million to his Open Society Institute in 2010, an organization that promotes education and democracy initiatives around the world. As one of history’s most successful financiers, his philanthropy is less known than his views on investing. His Open Society Foundations seek to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, the Open Society Foundations implement a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media.
- Vincent Tan: Tan founded the conglomerate Berjaya Group, and follows the Giving Pledge by giving away half his wealth. He is worth an estimated $1.25 billion. Most of those funds will go to his Better Malaysia Foundation. India today is one of the global leaders in charitable giving among developing and emerging economies.
- Van Jones: Jones is an award-winning pioneer in human rights and the clean energy economy. TIME magazine called him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2009. He is also the best-selling author of the definitive book on green jobs, The Green Collar Economy. Jones, along with James Rucker, is co-founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change, two social justice organizations striving to give positive alternatives and a political voice to vulnerable communities.
- 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act: Signed into law in October 2010, this act establishes new safeguards for disability access to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind as technology changes and the U.S. migrates to the next generation of Internet-based and digital communication technologies.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act: This act, CHIPRA or Public Law 111-3, signed into law in 2009, reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) until Fiscal Year 2013.
- Domestic Workers Bill of Rights: New York Governor David Paterson signed this bill into law in 2010 as a massive and unprecedented win for the new labor movement. In 2010, the California State Assembly passed a resolution recognizing similar labor standards for domestic workers, rights that lawmakers will likely codify as state law next year. Organizers in other states are working to generate more such victories.
- Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act: GINA, signed into law in 2008, prohibits discrimination against individuals in 1) employment, and 2) health care coverage (including group health plans, individual health insurance coverage and Medicare supplemental insurance policies). Further, GINA states that it is an unlawful employment practice to discriminate on the basis of genetic information or to request, require or purchase genetic information.
- Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008: Congress passed this act, which requires insurance companies to treat mental and chemical health on an equal basis with physical illness when policies cover both. The late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), were dominant figures in the quest for equal treatment of benefits throughout their Senate careers.
- UN Security Council Resolution 1325: Unanimously adopted during the Namibian presidency of the United Nations Security Council in October 2000, this resolution is a landmark legal and political framework that acknowledges the importance of the participation of women and the inclusion of gender perspectives in peace negotiations, humanitarian planning, peacekeeping operations, post-conflict peace building and governance.
- UN Security Council Resolution 1820: The United Nations adopted this resolution in June 2008 to address the issue of widespread sexual violence in conflict, either when used systematically to achieve military or political ends or when opportunistic and arising from cultures of impunity. Resolution 1820 identifies sexual violence as a matter of international peace and security that necessitates a security response, by recognizing that such acts can exacerbate situations of armed conflict and can impede the restoration of peace and security.
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: In 2006, the United Nations adopted this movement, which included the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century.
- Trail of Dreams: Four students from Florida — Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Carlos Roa, and Juan Rodriguez — left Miami on January 1, 2010 to embark on a 1500-mile journey to the nation’s capitol. On March 21, 2010, thousands of immigrants and their allies joined them to march in Washington, D.C. in a show of solidarity to raise awareness about the plight of illegal immigrants as part of the Dream activist movement. Similar demonstrations were held in cities throughout the nation. The Dream Act, a legislative proposal that has been a political football since 2001, would grant permanent citizenship rights to eligible undocumented students.
- UN Women: The establishment of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, known as UN Women, is a result of years of negotiations between UN Member States and advocacy by the global women’s movement. It is part of the UN reform agenda, bringing together resources and mandates for greater impact.
- Eugenics: In 2001, the Commonwealth of Virginia became the first state to formally expressing regret for its past support of eugenics. Virginia’s eugenics legislation resulted in the involuntary sterilization of more than 8,000 people with disabilities between 1924 and 1979 and also reduced the population to two classifications: white and colored. It defined race by the “one-drop rule,” defining as “colored” persons with any African or Indian ancestry.
- Giving Pledge: Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet establish the Giving Pledge in 2010, which encourages wealthy individuals to donate the majority of their wealth to charitable causes.
- Pan-African Grant Makers Assembly: The first event was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2010, funded and organized primarily by African foundations such as TrustAfrica, the Kenya Community Development Foundation, Akiba Uhaki, the African Women’s Development Fund and the Urgent Action Fund. It receives additional support from the Rockefeller Foundation.
- Polio Eradication: A $630m foundation-funded polio eradication initiative is launched in 2010 with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International and the British and German governments.
- Population Change: In 2010, Hispanics were represented by one in six U.S. residents for the first time. Many of their biggest jumps were in the South, including Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Louisiana, where immigrants made large inroads over the last decade. The number of Hispanics has grown 13 percent since 2000, accounting for nearly half of the population increase in the United States.