Strengthening the bonds of civil society

Aimi Zhou and Ine Van Severen

The December issue of Alliance focused on the topic of community philanthropy and the concept of ‘durable development’ – shifting power closer to the ground and giving agency to local people and their organizations. Here, Aimi Zhou and Ine Van Severen respond to Mona Younis’ article ‘From communities to constituencies for human rights’.

In her article, Mona Younis argues that human rights organizations can learn from and work with community foundations.

We agree that there is a need to improve connections between different spheres of civil society. We have long argued that disconnects within civil society weaken the impact of civil society as a whole. It is also clear that civil society groups gain legitimacy when they are able to demonstrate they connect to local constituencies and have the trust of communities.

Current regressive trends make it harder but more necessary to build these kinds of connections. CSOs that seek to advance human rights are facing an unprecedented level of restriction: the CIVICUS Monitor records that 3.2 billion people currently live in countries where civic space is limited. And many are facing new resourcing challenges: CSOs in the global south receive little direct Official Development Assistance, and several donors are cutting back their support to civil society. Numerous governments are also limiting the ability of global south CSOs to receive international resources.

Community foundations have demonstrated they can be robust in resisting these negative trends by embedding themselves in local communities. Now more than ever there is a need for supporters of civil society to help build partnerships between human rights CSOs and community foundations, to develop more sustainable domestic resource bases that support human rights.

Aimi Zhou and Ine Van Severen
Partnerships officer and policy and research officer, CIVICUS

On the same topic of community philanthropy: ‘How to be effective and responsive to communities?’ by Chandrika Sahai, Impact of new approaches needs to be demonstrated’ by Anna Wansbrough-Jones, ‘USAID must reform to truly support a community philanthropy model’ by Aisha Mansour, Measuring small-scale contributions to the SDGs’ by Dana Doan, SDGs must be part of community philanthropy agenda’ by Carola Carazzone

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