By Muriel Asseraf, Intitutional Development Coordinator of Conectas
The World Giving Index, a survey of giving behaviors across 146 countries conducted among 155,000 people, and which provides “evidence-based insight into the scope and nature of giving” by taking into account individual money donations, time donations (volunteering), and “helping a stranger,” was released on Tuesday, December 3, and showed that in spite of a struggling world economy, individual philanthropy is rising across the board. Canada and the United States still top the list of the most charitable countries.
That is for the good news. When it comes to Brazil, unfortunately, the scenario is much less uplifting. In spite of its economic growth, and its comfortable position as the 6th world economy, Brazil fell 8 positions in the World Giving Index, from 83rd position in 2012, to 92th in 2013. That is, there is apparently no correlation between greater economic welfare, and an increase in the level of donations. The increase in people’s disposable income has not translated into greater individual support for social causes.
In absolute numbers, Brazil ranks in 8th position, with 34 million people who confirm having donated money to charity in 2013. But little of this goes to support human rights. Indeed, while Brazil is still host to egregious human rights violations, its rights organizations need to be strengthened, and are threatened by lack of financial sustainability.
Many challenges stand in the way of greater individual support for human rights causes, among which, human rights’ “bad reputation,” the lack of fiscal incentives, and the widespread belief that NGOs are not trustworthy. In this context, and in order to survive, organizations have sometimes been forced to become service providers, implementing projects on behalf of local or state governments, and corporations have started their own foundations and are implementing their own projects. If not, they depend on foreign grants from international foundations or multilateral funds.
How can we change?
To try and remedy this grim scenario, a few initiatives have already been launched. Saturday, November 30, was the first edition of #DiadeDoar, a day specifically designed to remind us of the need to give: blood, food, toys, books or clothes to those in need; time to volunteer for organizations that provide services to vulnerable communities; money to charity and advocacy organizations to make their action more sustainable and effective. Launched this year by Movimento por uma Cultura de Doação, “Giving Day”, as it is known in other countries where it has existed for a while, uses the start of the holiday season to foster donations to charity organizations and launch a conversation about the importance and the significance of giving.
A number of crowdfunding websites or institutions have also been inaugurated over the past few years in Brazil, to facilitate the processes through which organizations can raise small donations from individuals to support specific projects. More and more organizations have installed direct giving functions on their own websites, in order to encourage donations from individuals thanks to paypal or similar systems. The Arredondar Institute has also created a way through which people can give a few cents or reais to selected organizations by rounding up their bills in stores or restaurants. Making things simpler, faster and more transparent seems to be the way to people’s hearts – and contributions!
Why giving matters?
Of course as a human rights organization, Conectas has a vested interest in seeing the part of individual support towards human rights increase. But the implications are even greater than that. The debate about giving, it turns out, is not only – or maybe not even primarily – about money. It is about the model of society that we are building in Brazil, a society in which each citizen feels responsible for each other, responsible for making sure that the rights contained in the Brazilian constitution are the same for all; a society in which citizens are the principal stakeholders of these rights, and not merely the victims of those who abuse them, and in which human rights organizations are valued as indispensable advocates for those who have no voice. It is about making sure that the economic development experienced by Brazil is translated into a brighter future for all, equally.
On 10/12, as we commemorate International Human Rights Day, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly to “bring to the attention of the peoples of the world the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations,” we must reflect on the model of society that we are contributing to build. While the challenges seem daunting in all directions, we must remember the universal values contained in the declaration, and the role of rights organizations in making sure that these rights are fully implemented for all. They cannot and will not survive without citizens’ support.