Keeping the closing space open won’t be a solo effort

Hanna Surmatz

To challenge growing restrictions on civil society, philanthropy will need to work collaboratively. Infrastructure organizations should be at the fore

Philanthropy is an integral part of civil society and many foundations dedicate significant resources to ensuring an independent, active and flourishing civil society space which depends on the freedom to act and the ability to respond to trends affecting this space. However, these things are coming under increased pressure from foreign funding restrictions, unfair and complicated tax regimes, hurdles in cross-border actions and the impact of legislation on counter terrorism/money laundering. This shrinking space, as it has come to be termed, is concerning a growing number of funders.

Institutional philanthropy must work together to develop strategies to overcome these barriers in order to improve the environment for philanthropy and wider global civil society.

Restrictions on civil society space spring from different motives: national security, economic interests, sovereignty or fear of critical voices. Sometimes even the sector itself may limit its space to operate through self-censorship or the lack of courage to act. Solutions are therefore not straightforward and require the collaboration of different sectors locally and internationally. This is where philanthropy infrastructure has a key role. Institutional philanthropy must work together to develop strategies to overcome these barriers in order to improve the environment for philanthropy and wider global civil society. They need to test out new ideas and initiatives, concrete actions and real collaboration, creating synergies instead of duplication.

 
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