Civil society: Key messages for Busan

From the findings and operational implications described in the previous sections, a set of key messages can be proposed to be taken up to Busan and beyond.

General Messages

  • Partner country ownership of CD processes goes beyond the State. All state and non-state actors – including CSOs – have an active role to play into the design, implementation, management and assessment of national and local CD strategies, both as providers and as recipients of CD support, according to their needs and comparative advantages.
  • Engaging with CSOs and more broadly with NSAs might bring dilemmas because of the multifaceted and wide-ranging nature of CSOs and other NSAs and the complex, sometimes hostile, relationships with state institutions. The diversity of CSOs mandates and constituencies must be understood and considered, as well as the dynamics of their relationship with state institutions. State and CSOs should mutually commit to strengthen their own capacities to engage with and support each other for national and local CD processes to be effective.
  • A joint learning effort. CSOs and other NSAs involved in CD can engage actively with donors, partner country governments and other development partners in the on-going, joint South-North effort to consolidate lessons learnt and identify CD good practices – on the road to Busan and after. This should also look at good practices to support CSOs - and other NSAs - to reach their full potential as development actors and as CD providers. Donors and partner country governments should be responsive to the lessons learnt and experiences that CSOs can share, and vice-versa.

Messages in Relation to CSOs for Capacity Development

  • As CSOs have a long and diverse experience in CD and are increasingly providing CD support to other non-state and state actors, there is a need for donors, northern CSOs and INGOs along with other international CD support providers to assess their role in CD support in relation to strengthen CSO ownership in developing countries. Where CD is supported as a contractual relationship, phasing out and exit strategies should be carefully planned for and agreed upon by all actors involved. A shift is needed towards a transparent market for CD, open and accessible to local CD providers including southern CSOs.
  • Enhancing the evidence base on CD modalities and support by CSOs is a critical step to improve learning on what works and what does not work. All actors can support and commit to use available tools and process to assess the impact of CSO CD support and CD aspects of CSO partnership – both for accountability and learning purposes. One option to this end could be to integrate CSO performance into sector reviews and other thematic evaluations.

Messages in Relation to Capacity Development for CSOs

  • Partner country governments and donors have a key role in setting up a conductive enabling environment that facilitates and values CSOs engagement in development processes.
  • Effective support to capacity developmentrequires a contextualised, coordinated, long-term, demand-driven and comprehensive approach which goes beyond training for individual skills to provide support to key organizational capacities. This also applies to supporting CD of CSOs and can be an important aspect of North/South CSO partnerships. Especially in least developed countries and post-conflict situations, donors, northern CSOs and INGOs must move carefully and do not push for the creation of “donor-oriented” CSOs as this might worsen rather than enhance the state-citizen-CSO relationships as well as undermine sustainability.
  • All actors in donor and partner countries should join effort to seek for and promote innovative and flexible support mechanisms for CD of CSOs - including appropriate, more flexible and impartially managed funding mechanisms.

Key issues for further research and discussion

A joint effort to identify good practice and incentives to apply it. This note has focused on partner country CSOs. As recognised in the introduction, it attempts to provide an initial overview of existing evidence and key issues related to CSOs and CD. A joint effort is needed that bring together the voices and perspectives of CSOs and other development partners on good practice in fostering CD. This should go beyond the technical dimension of CD – it should also look at power dynamics, effective relationships and interactions across all relevant actors as well as atthe incentives and levers that could induce different practice. Ongoing efforts by Cluster A on Ownership and Accountability as well as CSO-led processes such as the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness and Better Aid are moving towards this direction and more findings can be expected in the near future.

Beyond CSOs – other NSAs. Other NSAs can have a critical role in CD – both as recipients to enhance their own capacities as well as providers of CD support. More attention should therefore be devoted to collecting evidence and consolidate lessons learnt on CD practices and other NSAs such as the private sectors, the media and other actors. The media can constitute a key mechanism for donor interventions[1], for example in contributing to build awareness amongst the broader public of what civil society strengthening and CD means and its contribution to societal change and development (Lipson, 2006; see also Box 18 below). The private sector (both formal and informal sectors) already is heavily involved in capacity development, even in the least developed countries. Recognition of the importance of the private sector to foster and sustain partner country capacities is growing among traditional and emerging donors. For example, one Korea source discusses a paradigm shift from the historical aid-oriented focus towards and expansion of the private sector capacity among developing countries as a measure against the demise of donor aid and the failures of the current development aid model[2].The November 2010 G20 Seoul Summit Leaders' Declaration[3] also highlights the importance of private sector-led growth and job creation.

Box 18: Media role in increasing citizens’ capacity to raise their voices

Media can play a major role in forming proper public opinion and creating awareness about their rights so that they can voice their demands appropriately. In some countries, the media has initiated civic education programmes, which help to increase citizens’ knowledge and awareness of their democratic rights and responsibilities, and promote an inclusive and participatory civil society. Moreover, in countries where political transitions are under way, there is some evidence that information is becoming decentralized and more freely disseminated. In Eastern and Southern African countries, for instance, more independent media have arisen as more multiparty regimes have been established. In West Africa, there are many private, commercially oriented media outlets that provide a significant source of public information on health, education, and community initiative.

UNDP, 2006

Phasing out and exit strategies. The growing importance of Southern actors in supporting CD – including local CSOs and other NSAs – calls for a reassessment of the role and comparative advantages of INGOs and other Northern CD providers. South and North CD support providers should join efforts to enhance collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas and experiences. For Northern CD support providers, this may mean moving toward a facilitation rather than implementation role as they increasingly support Southern actors to implement CD programmes as well as promote Southern CSO exchange and interactions. More research should be conducted on sustainability of CD support for enduring change as well as on best practices in terms of phasing out and exist strategies.  At the same time, more consideration should be paid to assess the effectiveness of Southern CD providers.

[1]  Strengthening the capacities and professionalism of the media has been a focus for many donor interventions. For example, in Nepal DANIDA has been supporting the Centre for Professional Journalism Studies through its Media for Consolidation of Democracy intervention, aimed at civic education and awareness-raising. The media have also been effective in advocating for and using the right to information, which has been supported by donors in Nicaragua (via supporting the government to implement a new Information Act) and Bangladesh (supporting civil society’s demand for this right) - Sharma, 2009

[2]The Korea Times, 18 October 2010: Seoul should represent both G20 and non-G20 countries