By Princess Bazley-Bethea, Manager of the Together Project, InterAction
Through the Together Project, the US platform of NGOs InterAction actively represents its members, particularly organizations that are most vulnerable to any direct attacks, or indirect impacts of laws, regulations, or policies that have a chilling effect on their ability to function. Established in January 2017, the project represents a hub of advocacy and solidarity for U.S.-based NGOs that provide vital development and humanitarian relief around the world but confront discrimination or targeted regulations in the U.S. due to their operating principles or religious faith. Our Coalition brings attention to these issues, educates relevant policymakers and officials, convenes conversations to identify solutions, connects NGOs with each other, and builds solidarity.
Over the past three years, we have seen civil society come together in solidarity for InterAction members during various attacks and disinformation campaigns. Notably, the Together Project coordinated a response after an INGO was wrongfully accused of supporting terrorism by a member of Congress threatening to cut their government funding with a legislative amendment. The accusation was based on a disinformation campaign that was made to attack the INGO intentionally. The Together Project along with over 50 organizations recognized the false, dangerous nature of the accusations, the attack was thwarted in less than 48 hours, and the member of Congress withdrew the amendment. This experience informed the way we continue to support our members during difficult attacks and led to the development of InterAction’s DisinformationToolkit, a resource for organizations to prepare in advance for this and other types of disinformation scenarios.
The issues that the Together Project tackles, like bank de-risking, disinformation campaigns, and targeted material support regulations are not easily won victories. Disinformation attacks have become more prevalent, especially from groups that target organizations based on where they deliver aid and who they are attempting to aid. Our Coalition enables members to share information and develop strategies in response to shrinking civil society space experienced by these NGOs. Since its start, the Together Project has hosted numerous briefings, workshops, and events, and actively engaged with key stakeholders such as the World Bank, the U.S. Department of Treasury, and members of Congress to foster a better understanding of the various challenges and provide a voice to under-represented organizations.
We have seen victories responding to disinformation campaigns on Capitol Hill while providing direct support to NGOs facing bank de-risking or de-banking. Globally, the Together Project partners with leaders like the International Civil Society Centre are at the forefront of international response and action amplifying the U.S.-based NGO voice. INGOs and CSOs around the world have begun collaborating to share, learn, and act in response to shrinking civil society space. The Together Project looks forward to collaborating and sharing experiences with other national NGO platforms on civic space through Forus.
InterAction is a convener, thought leader, and voice for nearly 200 NGOs working to eliminate extreme poverty, strengthen human rights and citizen participation, safeguard a sustainable planet, promote peace, and ensure dignity for all people.