A research paper published today by the European Foundation Centre (EFC) and the Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society (FICS) has called for more strategic action and engagement from international funders.
Launching the research in Brussels, the paper notes that ‘leaving the defence of civil society space in developing countries to a handful of actors on the ground is unlikely to be sufficient.’
The paper is the result of a year-long collaboration between the EFC and FICS, involving various funders and actors who participated in roundtables and interviews to devise responses to current trends.
The research, funded by the Open Society Foundations and the Fund for Global Human Rights, reviews the trend of ‘closing space’ for civil society, and how this trend is impacting the work of development and humanitarian funders and actors.
The research suggests this trend is being evidenced by a range of government measures including constraints on freedom of assembly as well as imposing excessive red tape and limitations on NGOs receiving funding from foreign donors.
The paper notes that for international development funders, including international NGOs, these restrictions can seriously impede their ability to support local organisations, undertake advocacy work or even implement basic service delivery programmes.
To date, only a small number of philanthropic development organisations engage in advocacy to challenge shrinking space, according to the paper. However, the research also notes that approaches will differ greatly from country to country and oppositional or advocacy measures may, or may not be, be the most effective way to challenge closing space.
The joint research paper is complemented by blogs by several experts, focusing on contextual responses to closing space in diverse settings.