Global Philanthropy Update - July 2019

Friday, July 19, 2019 - 12:30 pm EDT
Brian Kastner

The United Nations' annual mid-year High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) finished earlier this week. I was in New York to join several events and enjoyed connecting with a broad variety of organizations and people working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, including many Council members. This year’s HLPF focused on “empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality for all.”

Each year leading into 2030, the HLPF is an opportunity for the world to step back and evaluate how we’re collectively doing on achieving the SDGs. This year that meant examining global progress on the 17 goals from 2015-2019 and unfortunately, most signs today are negative. A recent post by the United Nations Foundation summarizes the challenges we still face, with some pretty shocking statistics, including:

  • Almost 75% of the world’s extreme poor live in Africa
  • 1 million plant and animal species are under threat of extinction
  • The global gender pay gap will take 200 years to close at current rates
  • 10 times more people are being killed in violent conflict now than in 2005
  • In 2018, Official Development Assistance declined 2.7 percent

While in New York, the Council was especially honored to join the Philanthropy & the SDGs side-event, co-hosted by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the United Nations Office for Partnerships, in close collaboration with the SDG Philanthropy Platform (through Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors), European Foundation Centre, Synergos and the United Nations Foundation. The event is now available to watch online. We know that philanthropy is a critical actor in achieving the global goals. According to, foundations have given more than $143 billion to achieve the goals since 2016.

Many HLPF events also reiterated the importance of localizing the SDGs. One lesson to date from this work is that communities, including in the US, that effectively leverage the SDGs to drive collective action usually begin their work with a focus on the key issues impacting their community. City leaders don’t start with wanting to achieve “the 2030 Agenda” or “the SDGs” because we know the average person doesn’t inherently care about achieving Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being. But they may care deeply about ending AIDS, improving mental health care, or lowering traffic fatalities. So to effectively leverage the SDGs, we must focus on the issues within the global framework.

Beyond HLPF, I was also excited this week to see the latest Human Rights Funders’ report with Candid, which found that foundations gave $2.8 billion in grants to support human rights globally. Human rights are central to achieving the SDGs and philanthropy’s continued support for them globally will be critical for achieving many of the 17 SDGs by 2030. 

All the best,


Brian Kastner
Manager, Global Philanthropy
Phone: 202-991-0953


Throughout this year, Council President and CEO Kathleen Enright is speaking with foundations and partners across the sector about our work to reimagine the Council’s vision and value to the field. She will be meeting with members and nonmembers in-person, virtually, by phone and email to discuss key questions about the Council’s role in the philanthropic ecosystem.

We are committed to listening and learning from you about your vision for the Council and how we can best support a strong, resilient and effective philanthropic field.


San Francisco | Tuesday, July 30
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. PT

RSVP today through our partner, Northern California Grantmakers

Los Angeles | Thursday, August 1
9 a.m. – 11 a.m. PT

Invitation-only through our partner, Southern California Grantmakers


July 25 Teleconference at 1 p.m. ET

August 14 Teleconference at 4 p.m. ET


The Keidanren and UNDP Joint Symposium – UNDP

The Council recently hosted the delegation from Keidanren, a membership association for Japanese corporations, to discuss the SDGs and philanthropy. They have signed an MoU with UNDP to further their Society 5.0 vision and help Japan achieve the SDGs.

Funding access to justice, a 'cross-cutting enabler of the SDGs – Devex

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Open Society Justice Initiative are beginning conversations about creating an intermediary fund to target access to justice.

The Massive Perils of the Latest U.N. Resolution on Terrorism – Just Security

An important look at the evolution of the UN Security Council’s actions on financing terrorism, this article provides an historical perspective as well as discussing the far-reaching effects of these efforts.

Opinion: Here’s how to strengthen development cooperation – and meet the SDGs - Devex

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation has released its 2019 progress reports. The linked article above summarizes their findings, which can be read in detail on their website.

Shaping the global agenda to maximize city leadership on the SDGs – Brookings

Fourteen cities recently gathered to discuss how they are localizing the SDGs. This new report showcases their experiences and provides recommendations for how cities can lead on achieving the 2030 Agenda.



Tanzania | New changes to the NGO Act have caused concern among NGOs in the country. The changes grant the Registrars of Companies and of NGOs sweeping powers, including to de-register an NGO without due process.

Bangladesh | The government of Bangladesh continues to constrict civil space through a proposed law titled “Volunteer Social Welfare Organizations (Registration and Control) Act 2019.” In a stunning blow to foreign funded NGOs, such groups would not only need to maintain their registry with the NGO Affairs Bureau, but would need to seek registration with the Ministry of Social Welfare.

Europe | More than 100 people, including NGO workers, have been charged throughout Europe for facilitating illegal immigration. Since the EU stopped its own rescue missions in the Mediterranean, NGOs have taken on private and unsanctioned rescue missions, often provoking legal action from countries like Italy. The IOM and UNHCR have recently called for the EU to restart its missions. 

China | The China Daily reports that the Ministry of Civil Affairs is targeting NGOs for misconduct around poverty relief funds, citing embezzlement concerns. The reporting notes the government is still committed to engaging NGOs in eradicating poverty, but it seems some bad apples may face criminal charges.

Russia | The Duma has introduced a bill that would ban suspected terrorists from being able to found, participate in, or be a member of an NGO. 

India | The Ministry of Home Affairs has said that they have canceled the registrations of more than 14,800 associations over the last five years due to FCRA violations.



Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern - WHO

The World Health Organization has officially warned the world that Ebola is back in full force in the DRC. With the last outbreak of Ebola in 2014, foundations responded with equal strength, contributing more than $154 million to aid response efforts, representing 80% of all international disaster relief flows that year.

How philanthropic collaborations succeed and why they fail – SSIR

Amidst an increase in funder collaborations, both official and unofficial, this article examines what we can learn from previous efforts and how to avoid common mistakes in the future.

Energy, curiosity, and urgent questions on the AVPN Agenda – Alliance Magazine

The Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) recently had its conference in Singapore and addressed questions on building a philanthropic culture and combating climate change, among others.

How companies and governments do (and don’t) protect your data – Council on Foreign Relations

While the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is no longer in the news constantly, the EU remains very serious about enforcement. This primer can help you understand how it works.

Leverage for peace philanthropy in USA Global Fragility Act – Alliance Magazine

The Global Fragility Act continues to make progress in Congress. The June issue of Alliance delved deeply into peace philanthropy, including exploring how philanthropy can support the Fragility Act. If you’d like to urge Congress to pass the Act, you can use template language from Mercy Corps.

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