AP

Ford offers $80 million to fight global authoritarianism

Oct 5, 2022, 1:04 PM | Updated: 1:07 pm

The Ford Foundation will commit $80 million over the next five years to work that strengthens nonprofits fighting against authoritarian regimes.

Such groups are struggling in the face of governments that are restricting the right to protest, hobbling nonprofit organizations with an avalanche of bureaucratic requirements meant to stymie their effectiveness, and threatening the safety of people who work for such groups, Helena Hofbauer Balmori, director of Ford’s international civic engagement and government work and director of the new grant-making effort, announced Tuesday.

“There is a rise in authoritarian tendencies or authoritarian governments,” she said. “The conditions under which social movements and civil-society organizations operate are becoming harder.”

The Ford commitment, called Weaving Resilience, will not provide grants to individual nonprofits. Instead, it will support virtual “hubs” in 12 countries: Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda, where civil-society groups can receive help to make their organizations stronger.

The hubs will provide consulting for groups in their regions that need a guide to navigate labyrinthine regulatory and tax systems, draw up plans and publicize their work, and protect against physical and online threats to workers and their families.

The idea behind the grants is that supporting single nonprofits has no lasting impact and does little to help a broad array of organizations. Through Weaving Resilience, Ford wants to strengthen the civil-society “ecosystem” and foster the development of hundreds of vital organizations.

“There is never a shortfall of interventions on the side of foundations doing institutional strengthening efforts but that all of them ultimately always fall short,” she said. “They never have a comprehensive vision, and they only focus on very specific issues as if those issues were enough to create resilience for the organization. The piecemeal approach to institutional strengthening has not been effective.”

Hofbauer Balori hopes other foundations will join in. Weaving Resilience’s Mexico hub, which will offer services to organizations in Central America and Mexico, has attracted $11.6 million in support including the Ford commitment and planned grants from seven other foundations including the Foundation for a Just Society and the Kellogg, Open Society, and Packard foundations.

The grants come as democracy and free expression seem to be faltering across the globe. Basic liberties declined in 2021 for the 16th straight year, according to the Freedom in the World report from Freedom House, a group that works to promote democracy worldwide.

The report found that 38% of the world’s population lives in countries that are “not free,” a designation made based on a range of criteria, including government corruption, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and a functioning electoral process.

“The trajectory has been discernibly negative,” says Christopher Walker, vice president of studies and analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy.

Walker, who spoke before the Ford commitment was announced, said philanthropy could play a critical role in reversing the tide.

“Philanthropy may be positioned to stimulate innovation in ways that other resources might not be able to, he said, “especially when the challenges and the threats are growing and changing at such a fast pace.”

Each hub will design its own strategy. Two organizations, Compartamos con Colombia, connects nonprofits to a network of lawyers, consultants, and bankers, and Dejusticia, a legal and civil-rights group, will manage the effort in the Colombia region. During its first year, the hub will offer its services to Colombian nonprofits and then expand to Peru and Venezuela. Over the next several years, the two organizations together hope to provide services to about 200 groups in the region.

During decades of internal conflict, Colombian nonprofits were stigmatized as being related to leftist guerilla groups, says Vivian Newman Pont, executive director of Dejusticia. Following the country’s 2016 peace accord, and the election in June of Gustavo Petro, the country’s first leftist leader, nonprofits got some breathing room, Newman Pont said.

But despite the changed politics, nonprofits in Colombia have a lot of needs, she says. Many are in poor financial straits after years of struggling. Many have lost leaders who have joined the new administration. The Petro administration is not immune from sliding back into authoritarianism, Newman Pont said, and environmental and Indigenous leaders remain under the threat of assassination.

The government has given nonprofits “space,” but Newman Pont worries social-justice and democracy organizations will lose some of their independence because they don’t want to be seen contradicting the new government.

“It is a new space, and we have to take advantage of it,” she said. “We feel stronger; we feel more heard. And we have to use it because now it is the moment for hope.”

A big problem with foundation support from U.S. grantmakers, Newman Pont said, is that such giving is usually earmarked for specific purposes. When new needs arise, civil-society groups often feel constrained to spend their grants as they were designed so they can keep a relationship with a grant maker, rather than use funds to respond to new challenges.

The Ford commitment, Hofbauer Balmori said, looks to break that cycle. The groups that will decide how the money is best used are from the region and have a better sense of emerging needs than a New York grant maker, she said.

“They are grounded in the political context of these countries and understand the trends that are manifesting themselves.”

____

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Alex Daniels is a senior reporter at the Chronicle. Email: alex.daniels@philanthropy.com. The AP and the Chronicle receive support from the Lilly Endowment for coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

3 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

4 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

11 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

12 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

14 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Ford offers $80 million to fight global authoritarianism