This blog post originally appeared on the WINGS website. Authors: Rose Maruru, Executive Director of Epic Africa and Casey Kelso, Senior Advocacy Officer, WINGS
Three months after the global GPEDC Summit in Switzerland, the conversations about building trust, both between civil society and philanthropy, and with government authorities, are still relevant. In late 2022, WINGS, which was representing philanthropy at the GPEDC steering committee, and the Government of Switzerland1 brought together more than a dozen advocates to represent the worldwide diversity of giving at an intergovernmental meeting to discuss development cooperation aid. The initiative to convene governments with stakeholders such as trade unions and civil society on an equal footing came from the Global Partnership on Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC), a grouping of governments that coalesced around the Busan Effectiveness Principles for Effective Development Cooperation. At a time when trust has eroded, the GPEDC Summit emphasised trust building for open, inclusive and participatory partnerships to deliver on the promises made at such international meetings about development cooperation and the SDGs. The follow-up task for the WINGS membership is to find ways to build that trust.
Philanthropy’s advocacy goal in 2023 and in the coming years remains the same as it was during the Summit: demonstrating philanthropy’s value as an important stakeholder in discussions about development. The stage is now set for further collective advocacy to raise the voice of global philanthropy to promote an enabling environment for giving in restricted civic spaces.
The discussions between the different members of the philanthropy delegation during the Summit and throughout 2023, have revolved around several new ways to collaborate as members of a worldwide philanthropy network, with the support of WINGS:
1. A first step, following positive interactions at the Summit, is for WINGS members to partner with civil society advocates on the theme of trust and participate in the debate about open civic space, transparency and accountability, and donor efforts in localisation. This is backed by the strong final declaration of the meeting affirming a common commitment to an enabling environment for civil society including philanthropy.
2. Multistakeholder dialogue with local businesses is a key follow-through in 2023. Collaboration for an enabling environment remains “common ground” between the national private sector and local foundations and community associations. As a delegate said, “we should follow up on the private sector conversation on private sector giving”, and “ask our allies in corporate foundations to talk to their respective businesses”.
3. A key takeaway was that sometimes governments over-regulate not out of malice but because they lack a legal framework. WINGS sees a need to help governments with standards on civic space and provide examples of good public policy making. Stories are great and better than simply talking about principles. Philanthropy needs to prepare these positive practice examples to share. (Currently, WINGS is collecting good practice examples to inform draft guidelines on resourcing civil society that are being developed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association.)
4. Local philanthropies can use international statements like the one at the GPEDC Summit to persuade donors to fund the infrastructure for locally-led development. Building the philanthropy ecosystem is an emerging adaptive and politically-smart approach to localisation. Delegates agreed that if donors throw money at small organisations without a support structure, then they do them a disservice.
5. Participating in global events as a representative of philanthropy can have its challenges. During the Geneva Summit, delegates expressed some frustrations about whether the “good discourse” in plenaries was merely an “echo chamber” with nothing really happening. The focus of the official dialogue between sectors spotlighted the role of government without a discussion about the role of philanthropy and broader civil society. This exclusion of philanthropy and civil society is a recurring theme in many global meetings. The next steps are to make sure that philanthropy is considered an essential actor and has a place at the table to move from dialogue into action.
6. Using data and evidence, promoting mutual transparency, and creating the infrastructure to support locally-led and centred development, or “localisation”, is necessary to enable a transparent and trustworthy culture of giving. At the Summit, we saw northern donors come together to agree on efforts to directly fund local actors and build that ecosystem of support. Twelve northern-based development cooperation agencies joined USAID and NORAD in a declaration on localisation. Overcoming the existing structural barriers to local actors’ access to funding requires building trust, simplifying reporting requirements, and re-examining the role of intermediary organisations, the agencies’ joint declaration affirmed. This trend has been mirrored in other meetings since but presents an excellent opportunity for philanthropy and civil society to show the importance of developing the philanthropic ecosystem as a promising way to reset the relationship between fund providers and local communities.
Looking forward to future international advocacy with governments, WINGS will focus on promoting monitoring and dialogue at the country level to “build trust and safeguard stakeholders’ enabling environment,” echoing the commitment made at the Summit in its Outcome Declaration. The Global Partnership is now organising more than a dozen national-level monitoring and dialogue actions to move global discussions to local debate. Philanthropy can sometimes enjoy the greater trust of governments and may have greater influence in policy making in this next phase of trust-building with governments. Looking to the future of the network's advocacy, a WINGS delegate from Sub-Saharan Africa concluded: “There can be trust, but also some arm twisting to be done, but only in coalition together.”
If you are a WINGS member and are interested in discussing these issues, we invite you to join the Enabling Environment Working Group. Contact Bia Mion for more information: email@example.com
1. Through the generous support of the GPEDC and the Government of Switzerland, the philanthropy delegation was drawn from WINGS members from Ghana, Jordan, Mexico, Nepal, Philippines, Senegal, Spain, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the USA. The delegation reflected the diversity of philanthropy, drawing from various sizes of big international foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, networks such as the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, as well as national philanthropic support organisations, local foundations and community associations.
Rose Maruru is the co-founder and chief executive officer of EPIC-Africa, an organization that seeks to increase the impact of philanthropy in Africa by filling in critical data and capacity gaps in the philanthropic market infrastructure. Rose has a bachelor's degree in government and literature from the University of Nairobi in Kenya, a post-graduate diploma in American Studies from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and a master's degree in development management and planning from L'Institut Africain de Développement Economique et de Planification (IDEP) in Dakar.
Casey Kelso is a senior consultant on advocacy and strategy with experience living in and working with activists in Sub-Saharan Africa (particularly Southern Africa) and the Arab world (Middle East and North Africa). He has held senior leadership positions at International Crisis Group, Transparency International and Amnesty International.
©️ Photo credit: UN SDG Action Campaign / Martin Samaan