Monday, 08 July 2019 08:08



The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a universal plan of action for people, planet, prosperity and peace. The Agenda puts emphasis on the engagement of all development actors to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically, SDG 17 on partnership for sustainable development foresees the critical role CSOs play as potential development actors with valuable contributions to make.[1] Therefore, Reality of Aid Africa Network in collaboration with the National Treasury & Planning, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment organized a pilot workshop under the overarching theme “Going Further Together”. The purpose of the workshop was to raise awareness on effective engagement of CSOs in development processes and the international commitments that speak to this.[2]

CSOs are indispensable actors in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.  This is because CSOs make a valuable contribution to development agenda through service delivery, research, policy development, humanitarian assistance and pursuing accountability from governments and other stakeholders. Hence, they are significant players in the implementation of SDGs and in monitoring their progress. Therefore, there’s need to create a meaningful and effective environment for CSOs to engage in the development processes. Over the past years International commitments that have existed have been made to support and recognize CSOs as key development actors. For instance, in the Accra Agenda for Action CSOs are recognized as development actors in their own right hence the governments and donors are committed to providing an enabling environment for CSOs that will maximize their contributions to development reach full potential. Moreover, the Istanbul Principles also lay a foundation for strengthening CSOs effectiveness as development actors.[3]

 Accordingly, the Task Team shared a four-part framework as a stepping stone for CSOs to build their knowledge of International commitments on CSO Enabling Environment and CSO development Effectiveness and understand what these commitments mean for them and other stakeholders in practice. Creating an environment that supports CSOs to maximize their contributions to development agenda is a shared responsibility between the donors, the government and the CSOs themselves. Therefore, the four-part framework clearly stipulates the role each party has to play to ensure effective and meaningful engagement of CSOs in development:[4]

1.      Multi-stakeholder dialogue – Space for dialogue addresses all development actors. CSOs need be actively engaged at the national, regional and global forums for dialogue. This will enable them share their experiences, ideas and insights thereby influencing the development processes and policies.

2.      CSO Development Effectiveness, Transparency and Accountability – For CSOs to enhance their development effectiveness, they need to demonstrate their own accountability and transparency. CSOs are seen as the voices of the people and therefore they are accountable to the public, the governments in their respective countries and the development cooperation providers. There’s need for CSO to self-regulate themselves so as to gain the public’s trust as a credible and reliable sector.

3.      Official Development cooperation with CSOs- This focuses on the donors. Donors offer all forms of development support to CSOs when engaging with them. Good donor ship is encouraged to strengthen the enabling environment for CSOs in their work. Development cooperation providers should recognize the significant value of CSOs as Independent development actors and also on funding mechanisms CSOs should be allowed to come up with their own objectives and independently lead development agendas that speaks to their priorities which may not be in line with the donors or the government in place needs.

4.      Legal and regulatory environment- Governments have committed to ensure there is an enabling environment for CSOs to operate smoothly hence maximizing their contributions to development. Governments policy and actions heavily impacts the environment in which CSO operate. Therefore, an enabling legal and regulatory environment will ensure there are policies, laws and regulations that protect, respect and promote CSO rights which will result to predictable and secure environment for CSO to operate in. Also, this will contribute to creating transparency and effectiveness in the partnerships between CSOs and others.

In the multi-stakeholder dialogue role play session participants traded places and there was an exaggerated perception from the government, donors and CSOs about each other. For instance, CSOs played the role of government hence they created an authoritarian environment for CSO to operate because CSOs were seen as competitors of the government rather than a partner in development processes. The government took the role of the donor and they could only fund CSOs for implementing projects that are defined by them. Lastly, the donors took up the role of CSOs, they recognized the importance of governments and donors as partners in the development processes and also, they were of the opinion that funding for CSOs must respond to CSOs priorities and respect their multiple roles as independent development actors.

The four-part framework was contextualized in the Kenyan setting. The following were key outcomes from the break out groups discussions on the stepping stones to CSO Development Effectiveness and CSO Enabling Environment in Kenya:

1.      Implementation of international commitments should be made on the ground. The local voices like the CSOs at the county level need to know and understand the international commitments and their benefits.

2.       The government should institutionalize policy dialogue with CSOs on planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development projects and agenda. The dialogues also need to be initiated by the CSOs networks.

3.      Donor funding support to CSOs should be responsive, long term and accessible. Funding should respond to CSOs prime priorities and accessible to CSOs at the county level. Also, donor support should be predictable, flexible and long term to ensure CSOs programs and projects can respond to changing environment.

4.      Capacity building for CSOs should be given priority. Strengthening the capacity and skills of CSOs for advocacy will improve the environment in which CSOs operate and also it will strengthen the effectiveness of CSOs by improving their accountability.



The donors, government and CSOs jointly agreed on the following action points that will ensure effective and meaningful engagement of CSOs as partners in development processes in Kenya:

a)      Develop a partnership framework through a national Task Team between the government and Civil Society Organizations in Kenya. There should be formal structures of engagements that will bound all stakeholders.

b)     There should be more workshops that will encourage accesses to dialogue among stakeholders and also dialogues need to be developed further to the county levels.

c)       CSOs should adopt a self-regulation mechanism. This will help improve CSOs practices in development effectiveness hence furthering collective accountability of CSOs to governments, donors and the public.

d)     There should be resilience strategies for funding CSOs.

In conclusion, providing an enabling environment and enhancing effective development for CSOs requires a long-term and continuous commitment from CSOs themselves, the governments and the donors. There’s need to reform practices in the legal frameworks, financial support and the political environment. Sustainability should be our key focus in ensuring there’s lasting impacts of our efforts.


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