Published in Foreign Affairs

By Darren Walker

The world is experiencing a realignment unlike any other since the end of World War II. Nationalism and populism are surging in the United States and Europe, at the expense of liberal internationalism and democratic values. This poses a challenge to a wide range of institutions, including philanthropies committed to international development and social justice. Such foundations played a crucial role in building the liberal international order that has come under assault in recent years, and that the United States seems less willing to defend than ever before.

During much of the last century, philanthropic foundations based in the United States exported American ideals about democracy, market economies, and civil society. That mission was made possible by ideological support from and alignment with the U.S. government, which, in turn, imbued foundations with prestige and influence as they operated around the world. American philanthropies such as the Ford Foundation can no longer count on such support. Nor can they be sure that the goals of increased equality, the advancement of human rights, and the promotion of democracy will find backing in Washington.

As U.S. leadership of the global order falters, American foundations must blaze a new path.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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