Business and funder actions to address the closing space for civil society

Cicil discussion
Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The freedom and space for individuals and organisations to share ideas, promote social cohesion, and advance shared interests – civil society space – is vital to flourishing societies that value diverse voices. The rule of law and freedom of expression not only underpin human rights, they also underpin stable environments in which business and society thrive. In sharp contrast the closing space for civil society represents a clear threat to sustainable business success and those committed to the promotion of sustainable development.

Around the world, including in Western democracies, the legitimacy of civil society is increasingly being question and ‘the space’ eroded. This ‘closing space’ is characterised by growing legal restrictions on civil society, hostile rhetoric in the media or by political actors, new barriers to foreign funding, and the intimidation and – in more severe cases – the arrest, detention, and even violent attacks against civil society actors. 

As private sector interests converge in the development arena, this Breakfast Dialogue co-led by Deborah Doane*, Director, Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society (FICS)** and moderated by C&E CEO, Manny Amadi, represents an opportunity for influencers from the Business and the FICS private sector communities to jointly:

  • Compare experiences and perspectives on the issues, implications and impacts arising from the closing space for civil society 
  • Identify barriers to action by business and the funding community and how these might be overcome
  • Identify possible individual and collective private sector responses to the issue and the private sector’s role in creating a more enabling environment overall and how actions might be taken forward.  

About the series:
C&E’s Breakfast Dialogue series are free, by invitation, informal discussions held over a light breakfast and involving a dozen or so senior participants from corporate, NGO and public-sector backgrounds. They are highly interactive, informed, co-learning discussions in which participants share their perspectives, experiences and insights - under Chatham House rules. This particular discussion is focused on business and funding community stakeholders.

Contact us ( if you or your organisation is interested in attending this or future C&E Breakfast Dialogue events.
*Deborah is Director of FICS, which brings together private philanthropy from around the world to help ensure that space for civil society is free and open. She has over 20 years’ experience as a campaigner and leader in development, environment and human rights organisations.  Her previous roles include Director of the World Development Movement, where she led a successful campaign to curb speculation in food commodities that were harming the world’s poorest; Head of Sustainable Consumption at WWF-UK, where she set up the One Planet Economy Programme and helped to launch the Finance Lab, a cross-sectoral initiative to reimagine finance for good; Co-founder and Director of the CORE Coalition of over 130 NGOs, which achieved ground-breaking changes to UK Company Law to improve governance of social and environmental impacts. Deborah also held senior roles at the New Economics Foundation and the British Red Cross. 

**In 2016 a group of international philanthropic funders (including Ford Foundation, Oak Foundation, Sigrid Rausing Trust and many others) established the Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society (FICS) - a donor collaborative, bringing together private philanthropy from across sectors and geographies to develop collective responses to this trend. Through learning, innovation and grant-making, and collective action, FICS has been building capacity within the philanthropic sector to respond to the closing space trend – finding innovative ways to support a healthy civil society in which all can thrive.