Open Society Foundations
Open Society Foundations (OSF), formerly the Open Society Institute, is a grantmaking network founded by business magnate George Soros. Open Society Foundations financially support civil society groups around the world, with a stated aim of advancing justice, education, public health and independent media. The group's name is inspired by Karl Popper's 1945 book The Open Society and Its Enemies.
The OSF has branches in 37 countries, encompassing a group of country and regional foundations, such as the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa; its headquarters are at 224 West 57th Street in New York City. In 2018, OSF announced it was closing its European office in Budapest and moving to Berlin, in response to legislation passed by the Hungarian government targeting the foundation's activities. Since its establishment in 1993, OSF has reported expenditures in excess of $16 billion mostly in grants towards NGOs, aligned with the organisation's mission.
On May 28, 1984, Soros signed a contract between the Soros Foundation (New York) and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the founding document of the Soros Foundation Budapest. This was followed by several foundations in the region to help countries move away from communism.
In 1991, the foundation merged with the Fondation pour une Entraide Intellectuelle Européenne, an affiliate of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, created in 1966 to imbue 'non-conformist' Eastern European scientists with anti-totalitarian and capitalist ideas.
In August 2010, it started using the name Open Society Foundations (OSF) to better reflect its role as a benefactor for civil society groups in countries around the world.
In 2012, Christopher Stone joined the OSF as the second president. He replaced Aryeh Neier, who served as president from 1993 to 2012. Stone announced in September 2017 that he was stepping down as president. In January 2018, Patrick Gaspard was appointed president of the Open Society Foundations. He announced in December 2020 that he was stepping down as president. In January 2021, Mark Malloch-Brown was appointed president of the Open Society Foundations.
In 2016, the OSF was reportedly the target of a cyber security breach. Documents and information reportedly belonging to the OSF were published by a website. The cyber security breach has been described as sharing similarities with Russian-linked cyberattacks that targeted other institutions, such as the Democratic National Committee.
Its $873 million budget in 2013, ranked as the second-largest private philanthropy budget in the United States, after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation budget of $3.9 billion. As of 2020, its budget increased to $1.2 billion.
The foundation reported granting at least $33 million to civil rights and social justice organizations in the United States. This funding included groups such as the Organization for Black Struggle and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment that supported protests in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, the death of Eric Garner, the shooting of Tamir Rice and the shooting of Michael Brown. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the OSF spends much of its resources on democratic causes around the world, and has also contributed to groups such as the Tides Foundation.
In 2007, Nicolas Guilhot (a senior research associate of CNRS) wrote in Critical Sociology that the Open Society Foundations serve to perpetuate institutions that reinforce the existing social order, as the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation have done before them. Guilhot argues that control over the social sciences by moneyed interests has depoliticized this field and reinforced a capitalist view of modernization.
An OSF effort in 2008 in the African Great Lakes region aimed at spreading human rights awareness among prostitutes in Uganda and other nations in the area was not received well by the Ugandan authorities, who considered it an effort to legalize and legitimize prostitution.
Open Society Foundation has been criticized in pro-Israel editorials, Tablet Magazine, Arutz Sheva and Jewish Press, for including funding for the activist groups Adalah and I'lam, which they say are anti-Israel and support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Among the documents released by DCleaks, an OSF report reads "For a variety of reasons, we wanted to construct a diversified portfolio of grants dealing with Israel and Palestine, funding both Israeli Jewish and PCI (Palestinian Citizens of Israel) groups as well as building a portfolio of Palestinian grants and in all cases to maintain a low profile and relative distance—particularly on the advocacy front."
NGO Monitor, a right-wing Israeli NGO with ties to the Israeli government, produced a report which says, "Soros has been a frequent critic of Israeli government policy, and does not consider himself a Zionist, but there is no evidence that he or his family holds any special hostility or opposition to the existence of the state of Israel. This report will show that their support, and that of the Open Society Foundation, has nevertheless gone to organizations with such agendas." The report says its objective is to inform OSF, claiming: "The evidence demonstrates that Open Society funding contributes significantly to anti-Israel campaigns in three important respects:
The report concludes, "Yet, to what degree Soros, his family, and the Open Society Foundation are aware of the cumulative impact on Israel and of the political warfare conducted by many of their beneficiaries is an open question."
In 2015, Russia banned the activities of the Open Society Foundations on its territory, declaring "It was found that the activity of the Open Society Foundations and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation represents a threat to the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation and the security of the state".
In 2017, Open Society Foundations and other NGOs that promote open government and help refugees have been targeted for crackdowns by authoritarian and populist governments who have been emboldened by encouraging signals from the Trump Administration. Several politicians in eastern Europe, including Liviu Dragnea in Romania and typically right-wing figures Szilard Nemeth in Hungary, North Macedonia's Nikola Gruevski, who called for a "de-Sorosization" of society, and Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who has said that Soros-funded groups want "societies without identity", regard many of the NGO groups to be irritants at best, and threats at worst. Some of those Soros-funded advocacy groups in the region say the renewed attacks are harassment and intimidation, which became more open after the election of Donald Trump in the United States. Stefania Kapronczay of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, which receives half of its funding from Soros-backed foundations, claims that Hungarian officials are "testing the waters" in an effort to see "what they can get away with."
In 2017, the government of Pakistan ordered the Open Society Foundation to cease operations within the country.
In November 2018, Open Society Foundations announced they are ceasing operations in Turkey and closing their İstanbul and Ankara offices due to "false accusations and speculations beyond measure", amid pressure from Turkish government and governmental interference through detainment of Turkish intellectuals and liberal academics claimed to be associated with the foundation and related NGOs, associations and programmes.