Cross-Border Funding

Access to funding is vital to civil society organizations, which are further strengthened by the ability to cooperate and receive support across borders.

ICNL works around the world to encourage cross-border philanthropy and international development cooperation. Although legal constraints are growing, effective measures to protect civil society’s ability to access foreign funding have emerged at the country, regional, and global levels.

Key Resources

Philanthropy Law Reports

This series provides in-depth information and practical guidance concerning the legal framework for philanthropy in nine countries, including China, Ethiopia, and India. Local experts and ICNL staff wrote the reports with the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Global Grantmaking Country Notes

In partnership with the Council on Foundations, ICNL maintains reports on thirty-four countries to help U.S grantmakers undertake equivalency determinations for foreign grantees. The series describes the legal frameworks for civil society organizations and provide translations of relevant legislation.

Counterterrorism & Security

This page presents a collection of curated resources on counterterrorism and security measures that can affect cross-border funding, including the global standards of the Financial Action Task Force.

Legal & Regulatory Issues

Aid Barriers and the Rise of Philanthropic Protectionism

This 2015 article by ICNL president Douglas Rutzen explores common constraints on foreign aid under international law, along with the justifications and broader political contexts underlying those restrictions.

Defending Civil Society Report, Second Edition

This 2012 report from ICNL and the World Movement for Democracy looks at examples of legal barriers used to constrain civic space and articulates international legal principles to overcome them. Chapter VI addresses barriers to funding resources.

Globalization Without a Safety Net: The Challenge of Protecting Cross-Border Funding of NGOs

This 2018 article by Lloyd H. Mayer examines restrictions on cross-border funding for civil society organizations and explores the possibility of using international investment treaties to protect such funding.

International Investment Treaty Protection of Not-for-Profit Organizations

In this 2008 paper from ICNL, co-authors Nick Gallus and Luke Eric Peterson analyze the protections that investment treaties provide to the cross-border funding of civil society organizations.

Comparative Law Analysis of the Right to and Restrictions on Foreign Funding of Non-Governmental Organizations

This 2015 paper by the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights explores the legal framework for cross-border funding as a protected right at the international, regional, and national levels.

States, Public Space, and Cross-Border Philanthropy: Observations from the Arab Transitions

This 2015 paper by Barbara Ibrahim explores key issues shaping policies and regulations regarding the mobilization of international funding for philanthropic purposes, with examples from Egypt and Tunisia.

Analysis of India's Foreign Contributions Regulation Act

In this 2016 report, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association argues that restrictions on foreign funding in India’s Foreign Contributions Regulation Act contradict international law.

The Right to Funding

Human Rights Defenders Briefing Papers: Right to Access Funding

This 2009 paper from the International Service for Human Rights examines the right of human rights defenders to access cross-border funding.


In this 2013 report, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association discusses international laws guaranteeing civil society organizations’ access to funding and common justifications used by governments for restricting that access.

General Principles on Civil Society's Right to Funding

These general principles on civil society’s right to access international funding were issued in 2014 by the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Community of Democracies.

International Donor Responses

Mapping Initiatives to Address Legal Constraints on Foreign Funding

This 2013 ICNL briefing paper summarizes the legal constraints on CSOs’ access to foreign funding and proposes steps that private donors can take to create a more enabling environment for cross-border philanthropy and international assistance.

The Closing Space Challenge: How Are Funders Responding?

This 2015 report by Thomas Carothers examines the proliferation of legal restrictions on cross-border funding along with funders’ responses.

Allies or Adversaries? Foundation Responses to Government Policing of Cross-Border Charity

In this 2015 paper, Oonagh Breen identifies the drivers behind recent restrictions on cross-border philanthropy, especially those imposed in the name of development effectiveness and host-country ownership.

All Cross-Border Funding Related Resources

The Regulation of Foreign Funding of Nonprofits in a Democracy

foreign funding restrictions
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Legal Environment for Financial Sustainability in Georgia

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In order to advocate for barrier-free access to resources, civil society organizations need to be ... Read More

Regulating Foreign Grant Projects in Uzbekistan

Samarkand, Uzbekistan (Photo: Miguel Martín)
In Uzbekistan, civil society organizations face acute problems with financial sustainability, which significantly weakens their ... Read More

Localization and Civic Space

women in Africa (credit:
Localization—giving local partners more control and ownership of development initiatives—is a priority for the international ... Read More

Enhancing the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938

Congress Building, U.S Capitol, Washington D.C. (Photo: Creative Commons)
On April 5, 2022, the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary's subcommittee on the Constitution, ... Read More

The Regulatory Regime Debilitating India’s Nonprofit Sector

Crowded street in old Nizam City (Photo: Tejj/ Unsplash)
Throughout the COVID pandemic, India's nonprofit sector filled crucial gaps by providing essential social services ... Read More
Explore our full resource collection, which includes reports, legal analysis, and curated collections of materials covering an array of issues impacting civic space around the world.