Strengthening the bonds of civil society

Aimi Zhou and Ine Van Severen

The December issue of Alliance focused on the topic of community philanthropy and the concept of ‘durable development’ – shifting power closer to the ground and giving agency to local people and their organizations. Here, Aimi Zhou and Ine Van Severen respond to Mona Younis’ article 'From communities to constituencies for human rights’.

In her article, Mona Younis argues that human rights organizations can learn from and work with community foundations.

We agree that there is a need to improve connections between different spheres of civil society. We have long argued that disconnects within civil society weaken the impact of civil society as a whole. It is also clear that civil society groups gain legitimacy when they are able to demonstrate they connect to local constituencies and have the trust of communities.

Current regressive trends make it harder but more necessary to build these kinds of connections. CSOs that seek to advance human rights are facing an unprecedented level of restriction: the CIVICUS Monitor records that 3.2 billion people currently live in countries where civic space is limited. And many are facing new resourcing challenges: CSOs in the global south receive little direct Official Development Assistance, and several donors are cutting back their support to civil society. Numerous governments are also limiting the ability of global south CSOs to receive international resources.

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