I walk into 2020 with very little to celebrate. This is because the gains made on the social justice front were either compromised or insufficient due to the plethora of challenges they faced. From LGBTIQ+ related rights struggles, climate justice to reproductive rights; these saw universal oppression and backlash. Policy-making, decriminalisation and elections are not enough as executive orders, politics and religious elements anchored prejudice, injustice and denied many marginalised groups of their freedoms.
2019 was a year of young people taking to the streets and making their voices clear. Civil unrest brought change to leadership; whether in its composition or in the way it shapes its narrative. How do we galvanise on these changes to better serve our peers and their communities? This answer will dominate 2020 as the United Nations commemorates its 75th anniversary, the 25th anniversary of the 4th World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the WINGS Global Philanthropy Forum and the launch of a CIVICUS playbook on funding youth activism among others. Business as usual, is no longer effective or the norm. In my quest to follow the money, there are a few observations I have summarised:
- International Civil Society Week’s multiple dialogues between grassroots activists and funders: the layers between grassroots organising and large scale funding have become too complex and at times contradict [if not compete against] each other.
- Funders Concerned About AIDS dialogue on keeping AIDS in the media: there are double standards and there is double downing in donor approaches when comparing investments and their deployment in the HIV response between the global north and global south communities.
- CIVICUS Resourcing wrap up dialogue with grassroots activists and funders: conversations are important to working towards change, however there must be tangible ways/tools to effect that change; the playbook documenting bringing voice and visibility of grassroots actors in philanthropy is one of them.
- Global Fund for Community Foundations’ Pathways to Power: systemic change in society requires systemic conversations that are uncomfortable, uncommon and sometimes unknown, more especially within philanthropy. This includes racism, patriarchy, representation, capitalism and colonialism.
- Accountable Now’s Annual Workshop on preparing for a power-shift: proximity to power plays a huge role in perpetuating exclusion and competition. The shift can be accelerated by enabling collaboration and resourcing for resilience.
The gap remains in how we can align any form of organising in its impactful, dynamic form with work happening in UN agencies, philanthropy and state machinery where possible. Rather let me reframe: the gap remains in how UN agencies, philanthropy and state machinery can align themselves to the impact and dynamics of organising. The communities that harness their assets, the movement builders that respond to emergent context-specific challenges, the feminists that leave no stone unturned in systemic oppression, the radical digital destabilisers that decolonise our understanding of power and the many ‘othered’ change agents that could care less about being politically correct or compliant to the levers of power. 2020 is the year of truth to how systems and structures are created by people who are supreme to others. How these systems and structures are self-serving and reliant, with only having the bare minimum of conscious to do good in the spirit of changing society. It’s like having pride in giving a child bread and tea during a break in a school with deficient curricula, inadequate ablutions and no infrastructure. The claim to be investing in this child’s education is null, void and colonialist. Investing the bare minimum in a struggle serves the interests of those in power. Whether in civil society, philanthropy or government. One will continue to benefit from fiscal sponsor fees, the other from perpetual dependence and the latter from an unlearned populus.
Those in power continue to benefit from the suppression of women and youth. Those with the privilege to absolve themselves from inequity will continue to benefit from the criminalisation of others. Those who bear the fruits of patriarchy will remain anchored as beneficiaries to the systems and structures that plunder our planet for profit. 2020 will not be a year for the status quo. As you start your resolutions, work plans and theories of change, keep in mind the urgency we need to resolve the world’s biggest challenges. Although you cannot solve philanthropy [or the world’s] problems: Keep in mind that there is someone you can influence, partner with or link in the quest of shifting power. The battle for justice and social change should not be within our ways of work or enablement, but with those who reap the benefits of our oppression and denial as a people and planet. It is a war of ideologies, against ‘isms’ and for leaving no one behind in the coming decade
Dumiso Gatsha, Success Capital Organisation