The right of citizens to form associations and receive funding to pursue their missions is enshrined in international human rights law. Yet over 160 laws in nearly 70 countries have been passed to restrict this right since 2012 (ICNL).
These laws severely constrain the ability of CSOs to implement programs that serve their communities and ultimately threaten their sustainability.
RIGHT TO ACCESS RESOURCES INFOGRAPHIC
Restrictions on civil society’s ability to access funding are not limited to specific laws, but can be disguised in administrative provisions and practices or extralegal activities coordinated by governments against independent CSOs. Governments often target CSOs that receive international funding by publicly accusing them of being “foreign agents” or corrupt. They place burdensome restrictions on banks and insurers to discourage them from providing services to CSO that receive funding, or place travel restrictions on CSO employees. They may also encourage pro-government groups and media outlets to harass or slander CSOs that receive international funding from legal sources. This site offers a set of tools to help activists protect their right to access resources.
In July 2017, the World Movement surveyed civil society activists around the world about their ability to access funding. The survey considered restrictions governments place on CSOs’ right to access funding, and strategies activists used to defend this right. The following case studies are organized according to the strategies activists used. Click through the panels to discover how and where civil society uses these strategies!
CSOs have leveraged public support for their work protecting the right to access funding. Reaching out to the public to foster general awareness about the importance of CSOs' work has helped activists defend their right to access funding in several countries.
Members of civil society have established NGO and CSO coalitions to build solidarity. Coalitions serve as platforms to develop a uniform understanding of, and strategies to protect, CSOs’ legal right to access funding.
CSOs have taken legal action to protect their right to access funding by appealing to national and regional courts. Litigation has established a formal expectation of governments to respect civil society's rights.
To protect their right to access funding, members of civil society have maintained ongoing relationships with government officials and politicians. CSOs have effectively used these relationships influenced policy decisions.
International donors and the diplomatic community can influence national governments. Civil society sometimes seeks support from these communities to pressure their governments to ease restrictions on the right to access funding.
Multilateral institutions (MIs) can influence governments and facilitate dialogue with civil society. CSOs have shared information about barriers they face in trying to accessing funding with MIs, which are sometimes able to raise their concerns with governments.
When repressive governments restrict access to funding, civil society is often forced to seek alternative resources. Leveraging volunteers and potential revenue building activities has helped CSOs continue their work in restrictive legal environments.
Watch activists discuss restrictions on their right to access resources and the wider implications it poses for civil society.
President of the Moroccan Housewives Association describes the right to access resources and its importance in allowing CSOs to provide services to citizens that governments are sometimes unable to deliver.
Radio Horytna’s story about Case 173 in Egypt, also known as the “case on foreign funding of civil society,” in which activists explain the importance of civil society and its ability to receive foreign and domestic funding.
The Egyptian Center for Public Policy’s “Free NGOs in Egypt” Campaign explains how Egypt’s 2016 NGO law will negatively impact society by preventing CSOs from receiving funding and serving communities.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 22, states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others…” and implies that funding restrictions stiffening the ability of CSOs to pursue their goals may constitute unjustifiable interference with freedom of association.
Human Rights Committee, Communication No. 1274/2004, which stated that “the right to freedom of association relates not only to the right to form an association, but also guarantees the right of such an association freely to carry out its statutory activities.”
Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, Art. 13, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to solicit, receive and utilize resources for the express purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means.”
Human Rights Council resolution 22/6, which requires States to ensure that reporting requirements for civil society “do not inhibit functional autonomy [of associations]” and “do not discriminatorily impose restrictions on potential sources of funding.”
Human Rights Council resolution 27/31, which calls upon States to ensure that they do not hinder the work of civil society, and “underlines the importance of the ability to solicit, receive and utilize resources for their work.”
Former Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kaia’s, report thematic report to the Human Rights Council entitled “Civil Society’s Right to Seek, Receive and Use Resources – Human, Material and Financial” para. 20, which recognizes that the ability of CSOs to access funding and other resources from domestic, foreign and international sources is an integral part of the right to freedom of association (A/HRC/23/39, para 20). This is because of the central importance of resources in effectively exercising freedom of association. (24 April 2013)