Australian Communities Foundation (ACF) CEO Maree Sidey recently travelled to Mexico City to attend the Worldwide Initiative for Grantmakers Support (WINGS) Forum. Read her reflections below. 

The WINGS Forum was a fantastic and inspirational three days of watching philanthropy, traditionally a conservative and politically neutral sector, grapple with the very real and troubling times we are living in.

A strong theme of the conference was identifying and seeking out opportunities to tackle ‘closing space’, a term that refers to the closing down of opportunities for civil participation. Civil society organisations worldwide are under significant pressure as restrictions on foreign funding, barriers to registration, intervention in internal affairs, and other forms of harassment have proliferated.

I have come away even more excited about our Impact Fund and our decision to include strengthening democracy as a key focus, together with tackling inequality, safeguarding the environment and empowering Indigenous communities. There is also strong alignment with this work and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a universal call to action for governments, the private sector, civil society, communities, and individuals.

The conference finished with the following thought provoking declaration. It was a powerful way to end our time together and affirms the role of philanthropy, ACF and our community of donors in contributing to a fairer and more equitable Australia.

Mexico City Declaration
February 24, 2017

We are a global forum of philanthropy support organizations, foundations, civil society representatives and responsible business leaders gathered in Mexico to advance human welfare through more effective philanthropy.  We come from 41 countries and 167 organizations worldwide.  We can no longer assume that the shared values of our community – respect for cultural diversity and global collaboration, reducing human inequality, protecting the natural environment and promoting development – are gaining ground.  Instead, we note with alarm that each of these aspirations are under threat from political events around the world. 

At its heart, philanthropy means the love of humanity. As leaders, professionals and allies in the field of philanthropy, we condemn the rise of hate speech and the closing of civic space. We oppose those trends, whether in the form of attempts to vilify ‘the other’, spread misinformation, silence rights advocates, or use fear as a tool for manipulating public opinion. We commit ourselves to oppose trends wherever we have influence.  We will use the growing power of philanthropy to mobilize the social, intellectual and material resources of our global community and leverage those of our partners.  And we call on all people of good will to do the same. Finally, we signal our support and solidarity with those who feel threatened by the rise of prejudice or national supremacy movements wherever they appear around the globe.  

WINGS Global Forum 2017