Giving Compass' Take:

• Ariadne's 2019 forecast outlines challenges for human rights funders to address in the coming months and years. 

• How can funders work together to tackle these challenges? Where is this work most needed?

• Learn about frameworks for measuring for impact on human rights

2019 is set to be another challenging year for social change and human rights donors. With political polarisation growing in many countries and the far-right organizing and making gains across Europe, this is a time for donors to come together and think about how to use their resources and influence. One of the focal points for the year is the European Parliament election in May, but donors are trying to think longer term about how they can help shift current trends and protect democracy and values of equality and non-discrimination.

The closing space for civil society was identified by donors as the most pervasive threat to grantees in 2019. This is not a new phenomenon, but the prevalence with which it was mentioned suggests that it has only grown in importance for many donors. Funders are now seeing the intimidation of groups coming not only from the state but also from nonstate actors such as religious groups. Digital security is a growing concern, as groups are having their emails and social media accounts hacked. Some donors are thinking about how they can change their own practices to communicate with grantees more securely.

The pressure on organizations working on issues of gender, including women’s rights and LGBTI rights, continues to grow. Some donors note that right-wing forces opposed to gender rights are building networks across Europe and globally and are influencing gender conventions in the EU. Attacks on gender studies programmes at universities across Europe are also on the rise. Donors are thinking about how they can support their grantees that are coming under this kind of pressure.

Donors working internationally also raise concerns about a perceived rise in fascism globally. Foundations working in different regions are seeing signs of different movements that all point to a global resurgence of fascism and that suggest that there are higher levels of public acceptance of such ideology than there has been for decades.

Some donors are expecting 2019 to bring financial turmoil including recession and resulting job insecurity. This could affect endowment levels and the stability of grantee organizations and have a negative impact on the protection of rights in broader society.

Some donors see potential in the SDGs, which are providing a common language that can be used across sectors. This common understanding could be powerful because it helps social change actors reach beyond private philanthropy and charities and engage the financial sector and government. Some donors are optimistic that this will help galvanize more reflection and understanding among a wider range of actors.

Donors working on women’s rights have noted that the #MeToo movement has helped raise awareness of the issue of violence against women and that attitudes are changing, especially among young people. Some donors have been heartened to see more men involved with feminist organizations and in public demonstrations on issues pertaining to women. Other donors see a potential for Fourth Wave Feminism to spread more widely, citing examples from Turkey and other countries where women are taking to the streets and leading protests. Some funders worry that the additional funding for work on gender and on women and girls is a trend that may not be sustained, but they are hopeful that these issues are now more front and center than they were in the past.

Donors are seeing more collaboration among organizations that are working in different parts of the world or on different issue areas. There is a growing sense of solidarity among social change and human rights organizations as they recognize that supporting one another’s goals will help them achieve their own.

Similarly, more funders are thinking about movement building and intersectionality, looking for opportunities to strengthen the work that they can support. If this starts to translate into new forms of grantmaking, that could be a real opportunity for organizations seeking social change.