- New study reveals that Latin American Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) receive little funding for their essential work of political advocacy, activism and the promotion and protection of human rights
- An analysis of over 6,500 requests for funding proposals shows CSOs have more access to funding for education-related work
- Latin American CSOs must compete for essential resources on disadvantageous terms
3 September 2019 – In Guatemala, a politician known for his attacks on civil society is the new president-elect. Mexico’s leader recently announced he would cut state funding to all CSOs. In Brazil, the head of state is attempting to blame CSOs for the fires that rage in the Amazon.
Across Latin America, CSOs are leading the charge to challenge repressive public policy, hold governments accountable and bring about real, positive social change. And for their work, they are being increasingly targeted by repressive governments that oppose these goals.
Yet the donors who provide funding to Latin American CSOs are not supporting the essential work of civil society, a new study has found.
The report, "Access to Resources for Civil Society Organisations in Latin America: Facts and Challenges", presents a review of over 6,500 calls for proposals, for a total amount of almost US$5.9 billion, offered between 2014-2017 by 2,000 donors to individuals, CSOs, the private sector and other actors in the region. It was conducted by the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, and the Colombian social impact startup, Innpactia.
The analysis found that only 12 per cent of the tracked resources were offered exclusively to CSOs, including international CSOs, to work in the region. For Latin American CSOs only, the exclusive resources tracked corresponded to less than 3 per cent of the funds.
“Standing up for and resourcing an independent, diverse and sustainable civil society in the region has become more important than ever. But this shortage of exclusive funds for civil society shown in our analysis is an indication of the lack of recognition of the unique and irreplaceable roles of civil society,” said Clara Bosco, CIVICUS resourcing lead. “How can CSOs play their critical roles with such little investment from the main development donors?” added Bosco.
Funding and support from bilateral, multilateral and private donors has historically been a key source of income for CSOs in Latin America. However, as well as showing the scarcity of resources exclusively offered to CSOs in recent years, the data also highlight that the types of funding provided, the activities supported and the way calls for proposals are designed by donors are not necessarily aligned with most urgent needs of Latin American civil society and may put CSOs at a particular disadvantage.
For example, donors have made very little investment in crucial issues such as human rights, political advocacy and activism. A mere 6 per cent of the funding made available to CSOs in the region supported this work despite the rising political polarisation, growing right-wing nationalism, attacks on democracy and rights repression experienced in many Latin American countries. In contrast, projects related to education received the single largest amount of funding accessible to CSOs (25 per cent).
Donors are not investing enough either in strengthening the resilience and sustainability of CSOs. Under 3 per cent of resources accessible to them were intended to fund core operations, institutional strengthening and organisational sustainability. All other funding was offered to project implementation, usually for the provision of basic services. A lack of core funding restricts the ability of CSOs to develop their capacity, grow and become more sustainable, as well as to innovate and work with autonomy, self-determination and flexibility.
The report highlights that Latin American CSOs face unequal and unfair access to funding. In responding to calls for proposals, they compete mostly with international CSOs, private sector organisations and state entities.
It was also found that major donors tended to launch fewer calls for proposals and concentrate larger amounts of funding in each call, a practice that could hamper access by small and local CSOs and favour larger competitors like international CSOs or intergovernmental bodies.
“These findings are a call to all donors, governments and international organisations to rethink their role in supporting civil society and the ways funding is being allocated,” said Juan Lozano, Innpactia’s CEO and Founder. “Civil society in Latin America has long been eager to take a leading role in the development of the region and in advancing and protecting our democracies, human rights and the environment, but they need more democratic access to social impact funding,” emphasised Lozano.
This report seeks to bridge significant knowledge gaps about the quantity and quality of resources available to civil society in Latin America and the impact that current resources and funding practices have on the configuration of CSOs and their scope of action, autonomy and sustainability.
CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. Founded in 1993, CIVICUS strives to promote marginalised voices, especially from the global south and has members in more than 175 countries throughout the world.
Innpactia is a social impact startup that facilitates access to funds for over 20,000 organisations and social entrepreneurs in Latin America. Innpactia’s web application facilitates access to hundreds of funding calls and provides training and mentoring to make funding more democratic. To date, the platform has given access to more than 9 billion dollars in calls, monitors more than 2,500 donors, and has facilitated funding for over US$5 million for organisations and entrepreneurs in Latin America.