To expand civic space, US$3 million will be invested in Latin America.

As democracy in Latin America is being threatened, a new multi-donor initiative called Pulsante is seeking to fund and support those fighting to protect it. In the current state of emergency produced by the pandemic, decision-making by governments has, in some cases, significantly strained their relationships with citizens. 

 The Covid-19 health crisis highlighted the profound inequality in Latin America. It will be the most affected region socially, politically and economically. Brazil and Mexico are the countries with the highest number of infections. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, it is estimated that this crisis will drag 28 million Latin Americans into poverty. 

Against this backdrop, the measures taken by our governments are questioned. The pandemic magnified the problems we had been fighting for a long time: poverty, corruption, social polarization, lack of social assistance coverage, lack of capacity in our health systems, and the fragility of our institutions. The year 2019 was a clear example of citizen’s demand to address these challenges; we saw strong social mobilizations in countries such as Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil that questioned the economic and social conditions in the region. 

The Latinobarometre’s results show how support for democracy has decreased, in 2018 only 48% of Latin Americans agreed with the statement that democracy is preferable to any other form of government.  

Latin America must explore new ways to protect human rights and to promote inclusive citizen participation that can result in more just and effective societies.  

To address this challenge, Pulsante will fund civic empowerment organizations, social movements, and rapid-response campaigns which are striving to protect civic space and democratic governance. 

To achieve this objective, from 2020-2023 Pulsante will invest US$3 million to three priorities across the region:  

  • Rapid response campaigns focused on achieving specific, time-sensitive victories to protect civic space and human rights. 
  • Civic empowerment organizations strengthening experimentation with innovative democratic practices that increase citizen power, improve the quality of democracy, and guarantee greater social justice. 
  • Social movements seeking to drive reforms to make democracies more transparent, participatory, and representative.  

In addition to these priority areas, Pulsante will work at the ecosystem level producing knowledge for the field, fostering spaces for peer learning, and hosting events to spark collective thinking on the future of Latin American democracy. 

 Pulsante is a collaboration between Fundación Avina, Luminate, and the Open Society Foundations, and it will be coordinated by Fundación Avina. 

 “The promise of democracy in Latin America remains unfulfilled, as political leaders across the region abuse power, undermine human ights, and threaten civic space. Pulsante seeks to provide the funding and resources necessary to empower defenders of democracy and human rights across the region.” Felipe Estefan, Investment Director, Luminate. 

One of the main reasons for the instability in Latin American democracies continues to be the weakness of democratic institutions and the crisis of representation that they are facing. The instability is mixed with the shocks caused by explosions of outrage in the form of protests, the eruption of populism, authoritarianism, and general unrest. Satisfaction with democracy fell from 61% in 2010 to 48% in 2018, according to Latinobarómetro data. In this context, Pulsante is an alternative to support new democratic innovations that helps us to rethink social participation. Lucía Abelenda, Program Manager, Fundación Avina. 

Pulsante is also launching its Rapid Response Fund (RRF) today which will provide organizations and social movements with the financial and technical support to leverage windows of opportunity to trigger public discussions and civic engagement.  

RRF’s priority is to diversify and expand campaigns to promote collective actions that will expand civic space, promote the development of practices that reduce gaps between governments and civil society, and safeguard space for participation and collective organization. 

The RRF will provide grants between US$10,000 and US$15,000 and technical support on topics such as communication and advocacy. The grant period will range from three to six months, and the fund will review applications on a monthly basis.  

To learn more about Pulsante, and visit the website.