European foundations will join forces to fund initiatives aimed at strengthening civil society and safeguarding democratic values in Europe, the European Foundation Centre (EFC) has announced.
The announcement was made by Ewa Kulik-Bielińska, outgoing chair of the EFC at the end of its Annual General Assembly in Warsaw 31 May to 2 June. The ‘Warsaw Declaration’ states ‘We believe that as a philanthropic community we must send a firm collective message that democracy…can only be realised by securing a strong, independent and enabled civil society.
As organisations that use private funds for public good we have a critical role to play in calling on European public institutions to develop robust mechanisms to protect, defend and promote these fundamental freedoms.’
As part of a new ‘Philanthropic Alliance for Solidarity and Democracy in Europe’, foundations have committed to establishing a solidarity fund ‘pooling together broad-based, diverse philanthropic resources.’ Sources suggest that as many as 30 EFC members may contribute to the new fund. However, at the time of writing, it is unclear which foundations will be involved, how much funding will be committed, and how it will co-operate with the Funders Initiative for Civil Society, a parallel body with ties to the EFC.
The announcement of a solidarity fund comes as concern grows for civil society in Hungary and Poland. Speaking at a conference reception at the Palace of Culture and Science, Ewa Malinowska-Grupińska, chair of Warsaw City Council, emphasised that ‘the achievements of the Solidarity movement are worth stressing… built across all divides.’ Grupińska also noted 25 years of ‘fruitful co-operation between the local government and the local NGO sector’ carefully avoiding any reference to the troubled relationship between the national government and some NGOs.
Last month over 60 members of the European Foundation Centre signed a statement denouncing the ‘repeated efforts of the Hungarian government to restrict and stigmatise nongovernmental organisations operating in the public interest.’
Signatories included representatives of some of Europe’s largest foundations including Bertelsmann Stiftung in Germany, Adessium Foundation in Holland, Carlsberg Foundation in Denmark, Fondazione CRT in Italy and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Portugal.
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