The Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind (FPH) is a Swiss foundation that makes grants to civil society movements and organisations to support their actions in favour of a social and ecological transition.
Environmental defenders – and in particular those who are challenging loss of biodiversity, environmental degradation and pollution of natural resources stemming from corporate activity – are among the most at-risk actors in the world. Yet this risk to life and livelihoods is just one part of a growing, global trend – from new restrictions on overseas funding, to the administrative harassment of CSOs, to media smear campaigns – that obstruct legitimate environmental protection. We call this trend closing space for civil society. Its effects are not limited to countries in the Global South and East, but have become of concern across Europe and the global North.
Yet the drivers and impacts of closing space on environmental protection are poorly understood, and the discourse among environmental funders – compared with the human rights community – is at an early stage. In response, in late 2017, the Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society (FICS) and Global Greengrants Fund (GGF) founded an international working group for environmental funders to help understand and counter these growing restrictions and contribute towards an enabling environment for civil society engaged in environmental protection. FICS is a donor collaborative, founded in 2016 to help build philanthropy’s capacity as a sector to respond to the global closing space trend through learning, innovation in grant-making, and collective action. GGF supports grassroots-led efforts to protect the planet and the rights of people around the world. Together, the working group seeks to exchange experiences and strategies, and works towards a shared understanding of and approaches to create an enabling environment for environmental grantees.
The environmental funders working group has three main objectives :
1. To ensure that environmental funders in Europe, the US and the Global South have increased awareness of global trends, drivers and impacts of closing civic space, and better knowledge and use of resources and strategies to create an enabling environment for grantees protecting the natural environment.
2. To strengthen the evidence base of the impact of closing civic space on environmental grantmaking, and ensure funders in Europe, the US and the Global South have access to and use tools and strategies to create an enabling environment for environmental protection.
3. To build stronger, co-ordinated responses to the closing space for environmental protection with other constituencies engaged in the Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society.