A new fund for democracy and solidarity in Europe

Stefan Schäfers

A group of 18 foundations have set up a €4 million fund to support civil society and improve the public discourse

Liberal democracies in the European Union have been under stress over the past few years, at both national and regional level. Citizens are insecure about their future, reeling from socio-economic, cultural, generational and technological change, and anxious about the apparent incapacity of European and national governments to solve these problems. It makes them doubt the ability not just of the European Union but also national governments and the democratic system in general, to meet their needs and serve their interests. Among the results are the rise of authoritarian populist parties, Brexit, a more and more toxic debate around ‘otherness’, citizens not making their voices heard in an organized way and disengaging from democratic processes. Such challenges are evidence that democracy requires constant investment.

This situation prompted a group of foundations to establish a Fund for Democracy and Solidarity in Europe in 2017. The creation of the fund is both a firm statement by the partner foundations of the values and principles they stand for as individual organizations, and a reaffirmation of the importance of a functioning democratic system in Europe. In other words, it can be seen as a way to put our house in order, considering the fact that Europe is often referred to as a model of democracy.

The fund, which has €4 million committed over the initial three years, will work on two vital aspects of democracy: a healthy environment for civil society and the quality of public discourse in an era of digitization.

Victoria Falls, Zambia. Credit: Tee La Rosa
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