Donor solidarity with grantees can be as important as funding

Key Finding:  Civil society actors often value the political pressure that other governments put on their own government to implement TJ measures, perhaps as much as or more than they value funding; such solidarity often gives a powerful boost to civil society strategies advocating for institutional change.

Practical Steps

Donors have a level and quality of access to national and regional policy-makers that civil society actors often do not have. They sometimes also have the power to offer or withhold incentives to a country’s policymakers if they are out of step with human rights norms. During the recent human rights trials in Guatemala, for example, civil society representatives emphasized the symbolic political importance of having ambassadors from the U.S. and other embassies, along with the Commissioner of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), attend the hearings.

"Political support is critical even among those that don’t give us a penny. They make pronouncements, they offer accompaniment…and they help mediate with the Guatemalan government."

Civil society actor Guatemala

In cases when donors are supporting civil society actors aiming to create policy- or national-level change, civil society actors would welcome donors galvanizing their own political and strategic resources to help change along. This could range from hosting events where civil society actors can network with policy-makers, teaching them how to lobby, using political leverage to create incentives for policy-makers to support civil society strategies, to expressing solidarity through appearances at criminal trials (for example) and therefore reinforcing civil society demands before the state. At the same time, donors should actively take the lead from civil society actors on the kind of political support needed, as well as the timing and visibility of such support.

Practical Steps – Act in solidarity

Commit to actions that show solidarity.

Consider specific actions—including symbolic ones, like observing a TJ process or celebrating the UN’s International Day for the Right to Truth—that embassy staff and other donor government actors can take to demonstrate support for TJ.

Build bridges between the state and civil society actors, when appropriate.

Consider taking specific actions that will build bridges between civil society and state actors; this may be as simple as organizing meetings and making introductions among actors working in similar issue areas.

Support integrated oversight bodies.

Support institutional decision-making and oversight structures for TJ—such as joint steering committees and structured dialogues—that integrate state and civil society actors; ensure that civil society has a meaningful “seat at the table”.