“If donors want the movement to be sustainable, there has to be a major shift in the orientation of funding schemes. Because if the current project-based system is retained, without building organizational capacity, then not many NGOs or CSOs will survive.”
Nur Hidayati, Executive Director, Walhi National Secretariat, Indonesia
Civic space is vital for resisting destructive practices, holding governments to account, and advancing society’s collective well-being. The pandemic has increased the critical importance and relevance of a strong civil society. But many organizations´ resources are increasingly limited. The pandemic has also enabled some governments to double down on regulations restricting civic space.
Civic space is shrinking in many of the countries critical for the climate and tropical forest agenda. Essential freedoms, including speech, assembly, and association, continue to weaken globally. Criminalization and violence against environment defenders and social justice leaders continue unabated. The legitimacy of civil society and NGOs are increasingly called into question with false allegations of acting contrary to “public order.” Populist, nationalist governments have decreasing tolerance for criticism and accountability.
Civic space must be defended, and the role of civil society strengthened through dedicated support. Civil society organizations and social and environmental movements must be guaranteed a safe space in which to carry out their work. Civil society organizations should be able to count on sustained investments in their organizations and efforts.
HOW FUNDERS CAN SUPPORT
- Support organizational resilience and invest in core capacities of civil society, including physical, mental, emotional, and digital security; management; administration; and communications.
- Support collective initiatives that build and strengthen civil society networks, bolstering effective roles, complementarities, and synergies across a range of actors, including for social mobilization.
- Identify and fund service providers that can support organizations to achieve adequate levels of compliance with regulatory obligations.
- Support organizational preparedness assessments for key partners to identify and address risks and gaps.
- Include resources in grantmaking for regulatory assessments, prospective analysis, and legal advice.
- Map and support the ecosystem of environmental defenders and organizations that can offer security services to foster dialogue, provide assessments, and support prevention and collective security, including long term advocacy and policy work to raise the political cost of attacks.
- Build capacity within youth- and other movement-based organizations focused on positive social change.
- Facilitate positive, respectful, and balanced relationships between civil society and relevant private sector and government representatives to address challenges proactively.
- Civic Engagement and Government (Ford Foundation)