In September 2013, the Obama administration launched 'Stand with Civil Society', a global call to action to support, defend, and sustain civil society amid a rising tide of restrictions on its operations globally. Working in partnership with other governments, the philanthropic community, and multilateral initiatives, including the Community of Democracies and Lifeline: Embattled CSO Assistance Fund, the United States Government focused on three lines of effort: (1) promoting laws, policies, and practices that foster a supportive environment for civil society in accordance with international norms; (2) coordinating multilateral, diplomatic pressure to push back against undue restrictions on civil society; and (3) identifying innovative ways of providing technical, financial, and logistical support to promote a transparent and vibrant civil society.
The Obama administration also launched a groundbreaking initiative to support and connect civil society across the globe through a network of Regional Civil Society Innovation Centers, in partnership with the Government of Sweden and the Aga Khan Development Network. Up to six networked Regional Civil Society Innovation Centers will be created worldwide. These Centers will connect civil society organizations at the regional and global level to each other, new partners, and resources; encourage peer-to-peer learning; provide civil society organizations and their networks with virtual and physical platforms to access tools and technologies that will bolster their work; and amplify civil society voices around the world. Civil society organizations, academia, and technology partners will provide additional financial and in-kind resources, as well as technical expertise, to enhance the value of the Centers to civil society.
The Administration committed additional resources and took new actions – in partnership with other governments, regional and multilateral institutions and bodies, the philanthropy community, and the private sector – to expand the space for civil society around the world and advance the Stand with Civil Society Agenda.
The U.S. Government partnered with Khon Kaen University in Thailand to establish Southeast Asia’s first School for Civil Society and Non-profit Management. This program will allow 140 university students per year, as well as 40 civil society leaders from throughout the Mekong Lower Basin, to complete a degree or certificate program that builds their non-profit management skills. Over the next three years, the University will develop Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs as well as executive certification (non-degree) programs, and will serve as a regional hub for coordination, best practice exchange, and networking among civil society leaders.