Global Philanthropy Update — June 2017

The Council’s Global Team is excited to welcome a new addition! Nicolette Gerald is a graduate of George Mason University with a bachelor’s degree in government and international politics. She will be spending the next two months with us as a summer intern before beginning her graduate studies in public policy this fall.

As we hit the midpoint of 2017, the space for civil society globally continues to shrink in many places. A number of funders recently gathered in Europe at an EFC and Funders Initiative for Civic Space meeting about this closing space. I found this write up of the meeting’s discussions from Duncan Green at Oxfam a helpful overview of the roles foreign actors can play in impacting the shrinking space for civil society globally. I thought several suggestions were very relevant to U.S. grantmakers working abroad, especially the need to localize the context of closing space challenges (and not depend on a universal, global narrative), and found the list of potential strategies to consider useful.

Global Nonprofit Regulation The Council continues to monitor the changing regulations for nonprofits both here in the U.S. and countries around the world. This month, we watched developments in several countries closely:

  • Cuba: The Trump administration aims to reverse aspects of President Obama’s expanded U.S.-Cuba relations by undoing new 2016 regulations that allowed, among other developments, Americans to visit to Cuba under people-to-people travel. New regulations will not go into effect until OFAC guidance around engagement with Cuba are released, likely several months from now, and it’s not clear that the changes will significantly impact U.S. grantmaking into Cuba. Given the uncertainty of the planned changes, we will continue to track the situation in Cuba-U.S. relations closely.
  • Hungary: Despite warnings from the European Union and pleas by advocates for civil and political rights, Hungary’s government passed legislation earlier this month requiring Hungarian NGOs that receive foreign financing above 7.2 million forints, or $26,000 per year, to register as foreign-supported and identify sources of their foreign funds. The Council joined 80+ foundations and infrastructure groups in a letter to the Hungarian government advocating for civil society and highlighting the potential devastating impacts of the law locally.
  • Egypt: In May 2017, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi signed new legislation to restrict operations of foreign-funded NGOs and nonprofits engaged in rights work or anything that can be said to harm national security or public order. The new law proposes to punish offenders with up to five years of imprisonment and could affect more than 47,000 NGOs operating locally.
  • China: We continue to hear from U.S. foundations concerned with the new Chinese law governing foreign NGO groups. I weighed in on the issue in an article on Chinese giving by the Chronicle of Philanthropy earlier this month. The Council will also join a meeting with funders working in China at the upcoming IHRFG conference in New York City in July and share how our members are working within the new law.

The Council signed on to a joint statement sponsored by the Charity and Securities Network, demonstrating support for nonprofit organizations (NPO) rights and the importance of our work here in the U.S., as well as the need to safeguard  against discriminatory and draconian enforcement of national security related law which can create serious problems for civil society around the world.

Recent Reports – Several recent reports highlight global trends for civil society and are relevant to international grantmakers:

  • 2017 State of Civil Society Report: Civicus recently released its 2017 State of Civil Society Report, which examines major events involving and affecting civil society globally in 2017, including the impact of a global resurgence of right-wing populist politics. The report explores the relationship between civil society and the private sector globally, including key recommendations for partnerships and 27 specially-commissioned guest articles on different aspects of the theme of civil society and the private sector. The report also provides CSO-led analysis of the global civic space  with several key takeaways:
    • Only 3 percent of the world’s population live in countries where civic space is fully open.
    • A consistent pattern is emerging of attacks on CSOs and activists engaged in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.
    • Civic space is being seriously constrained in 106 countries—over half of all UN members.
    • In conditions of poor civic space, civil society is repressed through legislative and regulatory restrictions, the forced suspension or closure of CSOs, judicial harassment, public vilification, detentions, violence, and killings.
    • Many new laws and regulations restrict civil society on spurious grounds, such as maintaining public order and national security or preventing terrorism and give broad scope for politicized and selective interpretation.
  • Social Progress Index Report: Published by the Social Progress Imperative, the 2017 Social Progress Index Report includes data from 128 countries on 50 indicators that capture three dimensions of social progress, namely basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing, and opportunity. This year’s Social Progress Index reveals significant differences between countries in their overall social performance and in their performance across different components of social progress. Notably, the findings show that creating a society with opportunity for all citizens remains an elusive goal for many nations. Perhaps not surprisingly, the United States ranks 18th on the index, with tolerance and inclusion, as well as health and wellness, as major challenges to social progress domestically.
  • Global Peace Index: The 2017 Global Peace Index provides a comprehensive analysis on the state of peace globally. Amidst ongoing social and political turmoil, the world continues to spend enormous resources on creating and containing violence but very little on building peace. The report finds:
    • Globally, the economic impact of violence on the economy is enormous.
    • Deteriorations in peace are tied to the rise of populist political movements.
    • The largest regional deteriorations in the score occurred in North America, followed by sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and North Africa (MENA).

Sponsorship and Engagement Opportunities:

The Council’s global program has several upcoming opportunities for member engagement and/or sponsorship, including:

  • Global Philanthropic Strategies (GPS), a new capacity building program for international grantmakers launching in the fall.
  • The North American Community Foundation Summit, co-sponsored by the Council, Comunalia (Mexico), and Community Foundations in Canada, in Mexico City on February 5-7, 2018.

For more information these engagement opportunities, please contact me at natalie.ross@cof.org.

Upcoming Events – We would love to see you at several upcoming events in July and August!

  • Philanthropy's Impact in the Southwest: The Council on Foundations, Philanthropy Southwest, and Albuquerque Community Foundation are excited to co-host a meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on August 4, 2017 to discuss how work already underway across the Southwest supports achieving the universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This event will be the sixth location in a national dialogue with local philanthropy on the SDGs, following convenings in Little Rock, San Francisco, New York City, Jacksonville, and Minneapolis.
  • The International Human Rights Funders Group 2017 New York Conference will take place July 10-13. I would love to connect with members planning to attend!

Remember to keep checking our global program page and the global grantmaking resources for all the latest updates!