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During the closing plenary of the European Foundations Centre’s 2017 Annual General Assembly and Conference on Friday 2 June, EFC Chair Ewa Kulik-Bielińska announced the Warsaw Declaration to delegates concerning a new Philanthropic Alliance for Solidarity and Democracy in Europe:

EFC Warsaw Declaration

Philanthropic Alliance for Solidarity and Democracy in Europe

Today, in Warsaw, at the 28th EFC conference ‘Courage to re-embrace solidarity in Europe’, a diverse group of foundations concerned with the state of democracy in Europe came together to launch the Alliance.

“Civil society across Europe is currently experiencing increasing infringements on its ability to operate independently, resulting in a negative impact on democracy, diversity, equality and freedom. Non-governmental and academic institutions and the free media are being constrained by governments, and civil society actors are attacked, discredited and presented as public enemies.

The Philanthropic Alliance for Solidarity and Democracy in Europe is concerned both with the operating environment for civil society and, more broadly, with the urgency to respond to the violation of democratic values such as human dignity, freedom, justice, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Therefore, we commit to pooling together broad-based, diverse philanthropic resources and establishing a Solidarity Fund to support initiatives aimed at strengthening civil society actors and safeguarding democratic values in Europe.

Initiating this alliance in Poland – the cradle of the Solidarity movement in Europe – demonstrates the ability of the European and international philanthropic community to join forces to bolster solidarity across Europe.

We believe that as a philanthropic community we must send a firm collective message that democracy prevails and can only be realised by securing a strong, independent and enabled civil society. As organisations that use private funds for public good we have a critical role to play in calling on European public institutions to develop robust mechanisms to protect, defend and promote these fundamental freedoms.

Our times call urgently for courage to stand together and act for democracy and solidarity in Europe and around the world.

If you would like to get involved with the Alliance contact EFC Chief Executive, Gerry Salole [email protected].

Since its re-election, the Hungarian government has continued to undermine the credibility of Hungarian NGOs and tried to gain control over NGO funding, which is distributed independently from the government.  The background to this stand-off is an ongoing dispute between the Hungarian and the Norwegian governments, with Budapest accusing Oslo of interfering in Hungarian political affairs through NGO funding of Hungarian civil society.


Representatives of the Hungarian government have made serious allegations about well-established, respected Hungarian NGOs which raise serious doubts about the commitment of the Hungarian government to its obligations as a democratic government and a member of the European Union.


A consortium of three Hungarian civil society organisations which disburse funds locally from the European Economic Area and Norway Grants are currently under investigation by the Hungarian government, following publication by the Prime Minister’s office of a list of recipient organisations, including some of the most reputable human rights and civil liberties groups in the country, which led to accusations of them being “problematic” and “left leaning”.  The three members of the consortium — Autonomia Foundation, DemNet and Ökotárs — are well known for their promotion of democracy, defence of human rights, and environmental work, as well as for ‘re-granting funds’ on behalf of other donors, including the European Union and USAID .  The consortium is challenging the investigation under Hungarian Law and is regarding it as an act of intimidation.


Human rights watchdogs and NGOs have a crucial role in democratic societies.  Any political pressure on them, or any attempt to restrict their funding, is against democratic principles, rules and standards, and the protection of universal values.  


The Barrow Cadbury Trust, as one of many donor organisations committed to human rights and democratic values, has signed a statement protesting about the actions of the Hungarian government against its own human rights NGOs and the consortium of grant-makers. We hope that the Hungarian government refrains from any further political pressure and shelters its NGO sector from threats and interference. We also call on EU member states and institutions to remain vigilant towards any government pressures on civil society organizations, in particular on human rights and civil liberties watchdogs, which have a fundamental role to play in democracy.

The Equally Ours Campaigns highlights the importance of human rights to all members of society. Emma Hutton, Programme Director at Equally Ours, explains how the campaign came to be. 


“We need a beacon that humanises human rights, inspiring everyone to realise they benefit all of us here in the UK, every day, in very practical ways; that they are an important part of our shared heritage, helping to make equality, dignity and respect real for everyone.”


This is how Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, launched Equally Ours last month as he explained why human rights are so important to all of us, including the people with mental health problems who Mind works with.


More than 100 campaigners and communicators, from large charities to small pressure groups, came together on 19 November to discuss how to develop a more positive conversation about human rights in the UK, and to hear how Equally Ours will support that.


Equally Ours has come into being on the back of two years of research and planning by a wide network of charities, all keen to see the public debate on human rights focus on how to make rights real, in practice, for the people they work with. Recognizing that the everyday story of human rights is missing from this debate at the moment, the Equally Ours partners are working together to raise awareness of the benefits of human rights for everyone.


Our research shows that most people are already supportive of human rights but that there is limited awareness of how human rights work in practice; this leads to many people feeling conflicted about them. We know that when people hear about the way that human rights are relevant to them in their everyday lives, they understand them better and are more supportive overall. As organisations who believe firmly in the importance of strengthening the human rights safety net for everyone, it is important that we keep raising awareness of its benefits.


There is a real challenge involved in this: our analysis of the current media discourse about human rights shows that it is predominantly negative, with stories showing the benefits of human rights in everyday life almost entirely missing.


But this untold story is also our opportunity. By giving a voice to individual stories of people’s human rights being affected, we believe we can open up a more positive public debate about human rights more broadly.


When we get older, human rights protect our dignity in hospitals. If we have mental health problems our human rights help ensure we receive high quality, compassionate and safe care. We can use our human rights to challenge racism and disability discrimination. As children, our human rights support us if we experience violence and sexual abuse. This is the human rights story that we want more people to hear.


As Paul Farmer says,


“As organisations working with people whose human rights are too often at risk, we want to help people understand how the human rights safety net can protect them. This can help more people understand and feel confident about challenging abuses when they happen. It can also help prevent abuses happening in the first place.


We need to facilitate that kind of conversation on a national scale and reframe the narrative. The way to achieve this is through a values-based approach to communicating about human rights. Mind supports Equally Ours because this is exactly what the campaign aims to do.”


Working as a partnership, Equally Ours has exciting plans for 2014. We will produce communications briefings for campaigners and advocates, deliver training sessions, source and share stories that show the human rights safety net in action and work with organisations to develop values-based ways of talking about human rights. All of our resources are free to charities and NGOs interested in a new way of talking about the issues that matter to them and the people they work with.


If you would like more information about Equally Ours, sign up to our free briefings or get involved, get in touch.


E: [email protected]


T: @equallyOurs