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Newsroom Fact sheet

The Open Society Foundations in Spain

With an annual budget in 2018 of just over $1 billion, the Open Society Foundations are, collectively, the world’s largest private funder of groups that work for human rights, justice, and democracy around the world, working through more than 20 national and regional foundations.

Just under 10 percent of our funding goes to Europe. In Western Europe, in countries where democratic traditions are well established, our work has focused on helping people and governments find solutions to the social, economic, and political challenges of a rapidly changing, globalized world. 

The Open Society Foundations established a regional headquarters in Barcelona in 2013, where some two dozen staff oversee grant giving across most of Europe. 

Our grant-giving in Spain itself is limited, given the country’s well-developed systems of social and philanthropic funding and flourishing civil society space. At the same time, we support a number of Spanish Roma groups, reflecting our role in Europe as the largest private supporter of Roma causes. We have also been actively involved in efforts to combat anti-migrant sentiment and xenophobia in Spain, including working to eliminate racially-biased police stops, both working with police and using litigation to challenge the practice.

Broadly speaking, our funding work seeks to support innovative thinking around the challenges facing all Europeans—such as integration, fighting discrimination, digital freedoms, and attitudes to sex work and drug policy. This has included supporting Spanish groups that have a growing international presence, such as Eticas, which looks at the relationship between technological development and human rights, and Fundación CIVIO, a leading organization for transparency and public integrity.

Nine Facts about Europe and the Open Society Foundations 

  1. The Open Society Foundations joined the German government and the Council of Europe to launch the Berlin-based European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture in 2017, the first arts institution of its kind focused on the work and history of Roma artists.
  2. Our efforts to defend civil liberties across Europe include supporting dozens of national human rights watchdogs and the Berlin-based Civil Liberties Union for Europe, which seeks to give a unified voice to its national member organizations in European debates.
  3. We support the participation of parents and professionals in building more inclusive and effective systems for early childhood care and for schooling. 
  4. Open Society has supported the creation of the European Implementation Network, an independent, Strasbourg-based group that provides independent monitoring of the implementation by national governments of the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.
  5. We have worked with police forces in cities in Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom on efforts to eliminate racially-biased identity checks, searches, and stops.
  6. We provide support for local groups who work with refugee and migrant communities to support their successful integration in their host countries.
  7. Our efforts to fight discrimination have included supporting groups that monitor racist attacks in Italy and Greece, as well as supporting campaigns to uphold women’s rights and gender equality from Ireland to Poland.
  8. Our Mental Health Initiative has supported successful efforts in Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, and elsewhere to reform the care of people with mental disabilities—by moving away from long-term institutional confinement in favor of supportive community living.
  9. We support independent journalists, human rights defenders, whistleblowers, and anticorruption campaigners to upgrade their IT and physical security, to respond to legal challenges, and to promote fact-based public debate. 


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