As this year’s Global Philanthropy Forum (GPF), I expressed my thanks and admiration to the assembled philanthropy leaders for their great support to advocacy civil society organizations. I emphasized that in the face of failing global governance the voices of advocacy focused, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), are more important in today’s world than ever.
In the last session called ‘Citizen Agency: Taking a stand’, I proposed a new global initiative. Based on my own experience as founder and leader of Transparency International (TI), I suggested that the advocacy role of CSOs could become even more helpful to governments and business, if a new global multi-stakeholder initiative could address two emerging weaknesses of the civil society sector:
- fundraising saps the time and energy of CSO leaders and threatens their independence and credibility
- the shrinking space for citizens’ voices begins to severely affect their campaigns for accountable government.
The need to protect the work of advocates for the common good was illustrated by the powerful account of my co-panelist Ivo Herzog who spoke about how his father Vladimir Herzog, had suffered in Brazil. Vladimir was killed in October 1975 by agents of the dictatorship government of Brazil. His death was a ‘milestone for the process towards democracy in Brazil’.
I proposed to the GPF Audience to consider the possibility to initiate something similar to the United Nations – a global United Citizens Organisation, providing basic funding to eligible advocacy CSOs and protecting them against undue restrictions and in extreme cases harassment, imprisonment, and killing. The funding could come from donor agencies, philanthropists, businesses, and Tobin Tax. Protecting the CSO space might have to be developed through global conventions, international courts, and possibly coordination with blue helmets, however the feedback from the assembled delegates gave me hope.
Peter Eigen is Founder of Transparency International