International community convenes to support civil society

On the margins of the 68th United Nations General Assembly, heads of state, UN leadership and civil society representatives, including the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), gathered to discuss the growing crackdown on civil society and philanthropy, as outlined in David Moore and Jacob Zenn’s article in the September issue of Alliance.

This event, hosted by US President UNGABarack Obama, served as a launching pad for a year-long international effort to support civil society under threat. Following the event, 24 governments adopted a Joint Statement on the Promotion and Protection of Civil Society, in which they agreed to strengthen multilateral initiatives, including the Community of Democracies and Lifeline: The Embattled CSO Assistance Fund. This fund, supported by 17 governments and the Ford and MacArthur Foundations, provides emergency financial assistance to civil society organizations under threat and advocacy support responding to broader threats to civil society. These governments also committed themselves to undertake joint diplomatic action to protect civil society in countries where it is under threat and to lead by example in promoting laws fostering civil society. (Pictured: From left to right: US President Barack Obama, UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, Mexican civil society leader Alejandro Gonzalez Arreola, and ICNL President Douglas Rutzen.)

In support of this effort, ICNL launched the world’s largest collection of civil society legal materials, containing more than 3,000 documents from all UN member states. In addition, the Open Government Partnership pledged to address civic space issues at its October 2013 Summit in London. Bolstering these efforts, members of the foundation community are expected to convene in the coming months to discuss concrete ways to help support civil society and philanthropy around the world.

‘As other countries crack down, I believe we’ve got to step up together,’ President Obama urged world leaders. Civil society is under threat, but the future holds promise for coordinated global action to protect civic voices.

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