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Governments cannot squander lessons of Covid-19 in working with civil society, new report finds

16 December 2020

Governments around the world cannot risk squandering lessons learned from working alongside not-for-profits in the battle against Covid-19, according to a new report into international reactions to the pandemic.

The new study by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) examined national policy responses to supporting philanthropic giving and civil society in the context of the pandemic.  It found that governments varied widely in how they viewed the ability of civil society to help and that some had used the pandemic to silence organisations that were seen as critics.

Civil society organisations have been a vital part of the Covid-19 response across the world, stepping in where government capacity for providing basic necessities has been lacking and supporting rebuilding efforts.

Neil Heslop, Chief Executive of CAF, said:

"In this report there are strong examples of governments, development agencies, charities and advocates working together to help people weather this pandemic.  We need to build on those successes in our planning for future crises.

"We cannot afford to squander the moment for change created by Covid-19.  In the past and as seen during this crisis, the role of civil society organisations has often been an afterthought for governments.  As we start to recover and aim to build back better that cannot be the case."

In some countries, governments are seeing charities as obstacles and creating barriers.  In India, the state-created PM CARES fund diverted funds away from existing community organisations with some losing up to 50% of their funding.  Polling of 134 charities by CAF India on the new amendments to the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act (FCRA) found that two-thirds of the charities surveyed believed that this will have a negative impact on the sector.

The Giving Civil Society The Right Response report also details shortcomings in the financial assistance offered to non-profit organisations during the pandemic.  In many cases, a one-size-fits-all approach was created to support businesses and was only extended to not-for-profits in some cases after much advocacy.  Whilst some governments retrofitted stimulus packages to the sector, they did not address the needs of non-profits and failed to acknowledge the role they already play in delivering on-the-ground support.

The report also highlights recommendations on how we can build on the growth of informal giving and private sector engagement we have seen during Covid-19 whilst keeping in mind that the economic impacts of the crisis are still unfolding.

Paula Jancso Fabiani, President of the Institute for the Development of Social Investment (IDIS) in Brazil, said:

"The 10,000 donors who helped to raise almost $8 million for hospitals in Brazil is an inspiring example of how people and organisations have collaborated in their response to Covid-19.

"The findings and recommendations in this report show just how important it is for governments to make it easy and tax effective to give and why they should work together with civil society to tackle future crises and build a better future for all."

Notes to Editors

A full copy of the Giving Civil Society The Right Response report can be downloaded here

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