Kevin Allen | March 15, 2017
When Compassion International announced this month that it was closing its charitable operations in India – where it provided 145,000 children with meals, medical care and tuition payments – the Colorado-based organization joined a growing list of casualties in a troubling global trend.
More than 50 countries have increased their restrictions on foreign aid in recent years, causing severe complications for non-governmental organizations that rely on cross-border funding. One of the concerning aspects of the trend is that it’s happening not just in authoritarian regimes such as Russia, China and Egypt, but also in democracies like India.
Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a University of Notre Dame Law School professor whose research interests include nonprofit organizations, wrote a paper that identifies this problem facing NGOs and explores options for countering the restrictions. The paper, titled “Globalization Without a Safety Net: The Challenge of Protecting Cross-Border Funding of NGOs,” will be published in the Minnesota Law Review during the 2017-18 academic year.
The variety of new restrictions on NGOs includes additional registration and reporting obligations, requirements to obtain government approval before seeking or accepting funding and mandates that funding be routed through government agencies or used only for specific activities. For example, India’s government shut down Compassion International based on the suspicion that it was converting people to Christianity – a claim the organization denies.
Mayer said the crackdown on cross-border funding is the result of three factors: a steady rise over the years in the amount of money flowing from Western donors to NGOs in other countries, an increase in funding designated for human-rights protections and pro-democracy efforts and an overall swelling of nationalist feelings in many countries.