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Funding for free expression has grown, say donors

"Arab countries are a recent funding focus," says a new report on funding free expression work

Despite perceptions of shrinking funding for freedom of expression work, donor support has actually increased in recent years, says a new report by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), researched in collaboration with IFEX.

According to "Funding Free Expression: Perceptions and Reality in a Changing Landscape", the number of both donors and non-governmental organisations working in the field of free expression has been increasing, and broadening to support newer areas such as Internet freedom. So while more funding is available, there is more competition for that funding.

Plus, the report found, support for free expression sometimes follows a "flavour of the month" phenomenon, in which large amounts of funding surge into a region and then abruptly surge out. Think of the Middle East and North Africa today, or Latin America in the past.

Another key finding: donors themselves have been reorganising in response to the economic downturn and changes in the political landscape. This has resulted in some donors putting grant-giving on hold or changing funding priorities to focus on short-term, results-oriented projects.

"Funding Free Expression" is based on a survey of 21 major donors representing a broad range of private foundations and government and multilateral aid agencies in North America and Europe.

The study is a follow up to the 2009 report that surveyed more than 60 IFEX members that determined they were finding it increasingly difficult to acquire the basic resources to carry out their work. Changing donor priorities, finding a suitable fit with members' work and onerous reporting were just a few of the biggest funding challenges IFEX members cited in that report.

Anne Nelson, veteran journalist, media consultant and author of "Funding Free Expression", launched the latest report at the June 2011 IFEX Strategy Conference in Beirut to donors and NGOs alike - as part of IFEX's effort to encourage dialogue between free expression groups and donors in support of shared goals.

Funding Free Expression: Perceptions and Reality in a Changing Landscape
Funding Free Expression (IFEX conference PowerPoint presentation)
Funding report confirms challenging situation for free expression groups

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