Closing space for civil society

In June 2015, more than 80 funders, civil society actors, and government representatives met in Berlin to discuss the closing space for civil society in a workshop organised by SRT grantees Ariadne and the International Human Rights Funders Group together with the European Foundation Centre. Many donors and civil society organisations are finding that their work is being constrained by legislation that restricts the registration, operation, and funding of non-governmental organisations. More than 100 such laws have been proposed or enacted in countries across the globe since the beginning of 2012. The goal of the Berlin meeting was to understand the drivers of this trend and to strategise about how the philanthropic community can respond in the interest of protecting its own work and that of beneficiary organisations.

The full report from the meeting was released at the end of January 2016 and is available here. In addition to providing an overview of the problems faced by organisations, it attempts to provide practical actions that donors can consider taking in response to this issue.

The Sigrid Rausing Trust has been watching this trend and trying to help grantees respond to the increasing pressure under which they find themselves. SRT’s Director of Programmes, Julie Broome, said, “We are concerned about the security of our grantees and about their ability to continue fulfilling their missions in the current environment in certain countries. Freedom of association is a protected right under international law, and while there are permissible restrictions, in some cases the restrictions imposed seem excessive or arbitrary. We will be looking to this report and working with other donors to try to identify solutions.”

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