Open letter: Donors and supporters must act to ensure civil society resilience against COVID-19 pandemic

Dear civil society donors and supporters,

As the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, civil society organisations across the world are taking proactive measures to protect the health and well-being of their staff and partners. This includes necessary shifts in strategy, reprioritisation, and adjustments in programming and outreach. At the same time, civil society infrastructure is under visible and immense financial pressure. Projects have been postponed, deliverables delayed and energies diverted to making alternative plans.  Major events have been cancelled at significant financial loss. Funds have been (rightly) redirected from planned activities to COVID-19 responses. Reserves - when they exist - are limited and will soon be depleted.

Responding to these extraordinary challenges requires flexibility in how we use our grants.  We are strengthened and inspired by messages from donors and supporters who have been quick to reinforce their sustained support and commitment to enabling maximum flexibility for the work of their partners. It is an important sign of trust and recognition of the crucial role of civil society and civic action in our societies, now more than ever. 

We call on all donors and intermediaries providing essential support for civil society to adopt similar approaches by offering as much flexibility, certainty, and stability towards grantees and partners as possible. 

Here are five specific ways this can be done:

  • Listen to grantee partners and together explore how you can best help them face the crisis, trusting they know best what is needed in their own contexts.
  • Encourage the re-design and re-scheduling of planned activities and deliverables and provide clear guidance on how to seek approval for these changes.
  • Support new and creative ways of creating a culture of solidarity and interaction while adhering to the physical distancing and other precautionary measures. 
  • Offer greater flexibility by reconsidering payment installments based on actual needs, converting existing project grants into unrestricted funds, or adding extra funds to help build-up reserves or cover unexpected costs.
  • Simplify reporting and application procedures and timeframes so that civil society groups can better focus their time, energy and resources in supporting the most vulnerable rather than on meeting heavy reporting and due diligence requirements.

CIVICUS will continue advocating for a robust civic space, including measures that enable civil society to mobilise with and for the groups most affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. In these critical times, we must nurture civic space and its resourceful actors by expanding relevance and resilience, not reducing it. We must also be mindful that the present moment could also be used as an opportunity by some actors to further restrict the civic space. 

Imagine what could happen if civil society groups and movements all suddenly stop or scale back their efforts to move us towards a more just, inclusive and sustainable world. Now imagine a worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens collectively engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity - including the current pandemic.  We must do whatever it takes to keep civil society alive, vibrant and resilient.  

The way we will deal with this pandemic will have profound and lasting implications on how we build the future of our world. 

This crisis can be successfully dealt with through a global culture of solidarity and civic action, one underpinned by intense cooperation, trust and burden sharing. And your role, as funders and supporters of civil society, is fundamental to this outcome.

Donors have responded! 
Check out this Twitter thread and find 15 inspiring statements and pledges of support from funders to grantee partners that are aligned with our proposed approaches.


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