Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2011

Funding Free Expression: Perceptions and Reality in a Changing Landscape

Anne Nelson

June 2011

National Endowment for Democracy


In early 2011, the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) launched a research project to explore shifts in funding patterns for international freedom of expression activity. Twenty-one major donors responded to a survey, which was supplemented by eight in-depth interviews with donors and additional research on trends in Europe and the United States. This report builds on previous IFEX research carried out in 2009 and published as Funding for Freedom of Expression Organizations: Report of a Survey of IFEX Members. The 2009 paper presented data from a survey of more than 60 diverse freedom of expression groups, all members of the IFEX network. The 2009 research revealed that IFEX members were finding it increasingly difficult to acquire basic resources in the form of core funding for general operations, as opposed to funding for specific projects. Their perceptions indicated that the field of donors who specifically supported free expression work was shrinking. The IFEX members reported that their greatest challenges consisted of responding to shifting donor priorities and searching for a suitable programmatic fit between their work and donors’ agendas.