Polish Civil Society: Adapting to New Pressures

Barbara Smith

December 19, 2018

Published for the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) Human Rights Initiative (HRI).

This report examines Poland’s retreat from democracy. In interviews with individuals and groups in government, the private and non-profit sectors, and academic institutions, significant concerns were expressed about the future of Poland’s democratic institutions. Civil society’s role as a check on government has been weakened in recent years, and government signaling has exacerbated the issue. In particular, the Polish government has signaled a reluctance to support civil society organizations (CSOs), going so far as to engage in intimidation tactics against civil society actors. However, Poland’s CSOs are continuing to evolve — incorporating new models and technology into their platforms. There is a continued mission and purpose held by Poland’s various CSOs and, in that, there is a window for the United States and the Europe Union to support these groups, politically and as donors.

Seven Strategies Human Rights Funders and Grantees Should Consider in Today’s Volatile Climate

Barbara Smith

September 11, 2018

Article written to celebrate CIVICUS’ 25th anniversary and provide perspectives and insights on citizen action around the world.

With a declining trend in global freedom, there is a growing uncertainty some human rights groups abroad have experienced when it comes to financial, moral, or political support from the traditional international human rights funders. Seven aspects highlight and explain what both grantees and funders should consider in today’s political, civil, and economic contexts. Above all, thinking about funding, program management, and implementation creatively, innovatively, and flexibly on the part of both funders and recipients should contribute to greater success in defending human rights for everyone.

Donors’ Perspectives on Closing Civic Space

Barbara Smith

June 5, 2018

Published for the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) Human Rights Initiative (HRI).

This report maps bilateral, private, philanthropic, and multilateral institutions’ approaches for human rights and social justice activities. The overarching objective for this mapping and analysis is to understand how donors’ support for civil society organizations (CSOs) working on human rights and related fields has changed over the past decade. This mapping is used to assess overall support for civil society, whether that funding has grown over the past decade, and whether donors have shifted types of support. While there are challenges, both public and private donors remain committed to supporting civil society, whether in closed or closing spaces.

To Increase and Sustain Development Gains, We Must Learn to Adapt

Barbara Smith

August 3, 2016

Article for the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.

With new and protracted crises escalating around the world, USAID needs to do a better job of adapting development practices. The programming needs to be more flexible and capable of adapting to changing circumstances, as well as be better able to mitigate potential and emerging crises. Efforts to improve flexibility in USAID’s programming and work with local actors to boost sustainability have benefitted from the growing interest within the development community around related efforts. By working together and sharing best practices, USAID will be better able to adapt and modernize its development assistance.

Civil Society Organizations in Asia Press for More Open Environment

Barbara Smith & Kim McQuay

September 24, 2014

Article for the Asia Foundation.

Across Asia, civil society organizations (CSOs) have long played a vital role in social, political, and economic development — spanning social service delivery and poverty reduction initiatives to watchdog functions. As economic and political shifts reshape countries across Asia, CSOs are confronting both opportunities and challenges. In response, development partners and international non-governmental organizations are helping to connect Asian CSOs to facilitate the exchange of best practices, develop innovative partnerships, leverage information, tools, and technologies, and learn from the experience of dynamic CSO leaders.

Civil Society Leaders Gather in Seoul for Inaugural Asia Democracy Network Assembly

Barbara Smith, Peter Beck

October 30, 2013

Article for the Asia Foundation.

Although there have been attempts at organizing civil society organizations in Asia into a broader network, the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) is positioned to be more active and have a more enduring impact. The ADN’s inaugural assembly included a conference plenary and panel discussions that covered critical issues, including: peace-building, defending civil society space, strengthening democratic governance, civic and democracy education and poverty, and the changing landscape of official development assistance (ODA). Participants agreed that while issues at times may seem insurmountable, ADN can serve as an important voice across Asia and globally, drawing not only Asian, but also global attention to internal country and regional threats to democracy and human rights. 

USAID Strategy for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance

Principal Authors: Barbara Smith, Carol Sahley, Joshua Kaufman

June 2013

Published for the United States Agency for International Development.

Released in June 2013, USAID's Democracy, Human Rights and Governance (DRG) Strategy highlights the centrality of participation and accountability to the achievement of human rights and democratic governance. Support for democracy, human rights and governance is vital to the pursuit of freedom and national security and is essential to achieve USAID’s and the U.S. Government’s broader social and economic development goals. Four strategic objectives are examined to achieve this goal :

  1. Promote participatory, representative and inclusive political processes and government institutions.

  2. Foster greater accountability of institutions and leaders to citizens and to the law.

  3. Protect and promote universally recognized human rights.

  4. Improve development outcomes through the integration of DRG principles and practices across USAID’s development portfolio.