Daniel Ferrell-Schweppenstedde

Former Policy and Public Affairs Manager

Charities Aid Foundation

Cross-border compassion and collaboration will increase

Civil society needs a strong and reliable framework

22 September 2021

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report (IPCC) received widespread media attention with very good reason. The Sixth Assessment Report is ‘the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change, bringing together the latest advances in climate science, and combining multiple lines of evidence from paleoclimate, observations, process understanding, and global and regional climate simulations.’ From a global and science perspective, it can’t get more authoritative than this.

One of its headlines states that it is ‘unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.’

While the Covid-19 crisis has dominated the media agenda, 2020 and 2021 have also seen the impact of the climate crisis unfold. There have been droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, floods, and storms across the globe with communities, livelihoods and entire landscapes destroyed. We saw Australian bushfires, wildfires in California, Siberia and in the Mediterranean across Greece, Turkey and Italy; heatwaves bringing record temperatures in the US and Canada; and floods in China, Germany, Belgium and India – just to name a few of the most recent events.

Extreme weather events and the related impact on individuals’ surrounding environments are most likely to stay and potentially increase in the very near future. One struggles to find a silver lining given the immense human suffering that has accompanied all of these events. But what has also been revealed is the ability of civil society to step up and the willingness of individuals to support one another. Each event was accompanied by an outpouring of support on the ground, by people donating money, time and in-kind, often arriving from miles away to help anyone in need. Stories of mutual aid and spontaneous formal and informal volunteering have been everywhere.

Cross-border giving is part of this story too. Millions have been donated by people across the globe to help communities impacted by regional disasters. Cross-border compassion and collaboration driven by individual supporters have reached unprecedented levels. CAF and our partners in the United States and Canada facilitated hundreds of millions of pounds in cross-border giving to tens of thousands of charities in more than 100 countries in the financial year 2020/21. Much of it going to local civil society organisations (CSOs) and supporting numerous crisis appeals.

CAF and CAF America made it easier for members of the public in the United Kingdom and United States to donate to the Australian bushfire crisis, working together with our Australian partner Good2Give to distribute funds directly to organisations on the ground. The result was that much-needed donations went to Australian charities without international payment fees. And donors in both countries were able to trust that their contributions were handled in a reliable and regulatory-compliant manner. Elsewhere, CAF India has set up an appeal to support those affected by the cyclone Amphan in West Bengal.

The effects of a global pandemic are very different from the impacts of climate change. But the reality is that millions of vulnerable people are not only facing the adversity of Covid-19 but also parallel climate-related crises. Already weakened communities might be less resilient and less able to deal with the impacts of extreme weather events. Government resources might also be drained, which increases the role private giving can play.


From this perspective cross-border giving to tackle to the Covid-19 crisis has also gained in importance. CAF has been facilitating giving to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization (WHO). The fund is the only way for individuals, corporations, foundations, and others around the world to directly support the work of WHO and partners to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. CAF also supports the Go Give One campaign launched by the WHO Foundation. Donations raised go to the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment which buys Covid-19 vaccines for the world, prioritising those who need them the most (donors in the United States and Canada can support COVAX via sponsored funds at CAF America and CAF Canada). CAF also supported the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Coronavirus appeal which helps individuals in some of the most fragile countries such as Yemen, Syria; Somalia and South Sudan. The DEC also saw record levels of giving with its income tripling in the last year also due to the coronavirus appeal.

But in the recent past we have also seen new barriers being put in place which impede cross-border giving. In India, the government introduced new restrictions as part of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act 2020 (FCRA 2020) which, among other measures, disallowed the re-granting of funds between FCRA compliant organisations (learn more about the changes and why they might impact the flow of foreign donations on our dedicated podcast episode). And we still need more information on how Brexit might impact donors’ ability to make tax-effective donations for example from European Union (EU) Member States into the UK. Fortunately, some practical solutions are already in place and CAF is a proud partner in the Transnational Giving Europe network which allows donors to give to good causes across Europe.

Cross-border giving to help tackle crises has been a reality around the world for decades, but if the IPCC report and the grips of the Covid-19 pandemic tell us anything, it’s that the not-distant future will see even more need. The situation in Afghanistan for example has reminded us all that human suffering prompts a fierce desire to help, regardless of underlying causes. Recent levels of support and giving have proven this and organisations such as CAF (and our many partners and colleagues) are here to help facilitate giving in a secure, fast and effective way. Governments can help by setting a framework that works for all, finding and building on common standards. The climate crisis, the global health emergency and the strife of conflict remind us that it is imperative to not only maintain the methods we have to provide support, but to build upon them so that we can leverage the levels of cross-border solidarity which we have seen over the past, troubling two years.