Looking Ahead to the Future of NGOs at Forum 2015
Every year InterAction convenes humanitarian and development practitioners so we can learn from each other and together find solutions to common challenges. And now more than ever, NGOs are facing an evolving landscape.
With the growth of innovative financing, the introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the ever-growing concern of closing civil society space, more than 1,000 attendees at InterAction’s Forum 2015 — representing NGOs, governments, the philanthropic community, corporations, and civil society — engaged in poignant debates and stimulating conversations framed around the question: What is the change we need?
“We cannot retreat into the convenience of being overwhelmed. Our work makes a difference.”
Professor Bill Easterly opened the Forum and emphasized addressing the daunting challenges of poverty and inequality, advocating for the power of individual choice and civic actors; InterAction CEO Sam Worthington’s keynote argued that we must work collectively to create a strong global civil society infrastructure made up of networks that shape global decision-making.
Addressing the concerning limitations on civil society, leaders from the UN, think tanks, civil society, and the NGO community stressed that we must unite to eliminate harmful restrictions and foster a vibrant civil society worldwide. In the closing speech, National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes highlighted President Obama’s Stand with Civil Society initiative.
The high-level plenary sessions and 50 specialized workshops tackled other vital questions in the evolving landscape: the potential impact and costs of the Sustainable Development Goals; engaging the private sector; areas for cooperation with governments; and how best to engage the media as we try to develop a collective narrative about our work.
Though many questions remain, Forum 2015 was filled with optimism and renewed determination. As the Julia Vadala Taft Outstanding Leadership Award recipient Ruth Messinger said, “We cannot retreat into the convenience of being overwhelmed. Our work makes a difference.”
Photo: J. Stuart Harris