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Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Measuring the Information Society 2015
International Telecommunication Union
The Measuring the Information Society Report (MISR), which has been published annually since 2009, features key ICT data and benchmarking tools to measure the information society, including the ICT Development Index (IDI). The IDI 2015 captures the level of ICT developments in 167 economies worldwide and compares progress made since the year 2010. The MISR 2015 assesses IDI findings at the regional level and highlights countries that rank at the top of the IDI and those that have improved their position in the overall IDI rankings most dynamically since 2010. The report will feature a review and quantitative assessment of the global ITU goals and targets agreed upon at PP-14 and included in the Connect 2020 Agenda.

Prosperity Rising
Foreign Affairs
Since the early 1990s, daily life in poor countries has been changing profoundly for the better: one billion people have escaped extreme poverty, average incomes have doubled, infant death rates have plummeted, millions more girls have enrolled in school, chronic hunger has been cut almost in half, deaths from malaria and other diseases have declined dramatically, democracy has spread far and wide, and the incidence of war—even with Syria and other conflicts—has fallen by half. This unprecedented progress goes way beyond China and India and has touched hundreds of millions of people in dozens of developing countries across the globe, from Mongolia to Mozambique, Bangladesh to Brazil.  Yet few people are aware of these achievements, even though, in aggregate, they rank among the most important in human history.

Civic Space Initiative: Storytelling for impact

Roxanne Bauer's picture
According to the Yearbook of International Organizations, the number of international CSO's has increased from 6,000 in 1990 to more than 66,000 in 2012, with approximately 1,200 new organizations added to the registrar each year.

CSOs are also significant players in global development assistance, with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimating that in 2011, USD$19.3 billion in official development assistance was channeled through CSOs.

The power of CSOs lies in their ability to facilitate conversations—between governments and citizens, between policy makers and vulnerable communities, and among citizens.

The right to Freedom of Assembly and Association is critical to making these conversations happen. Without the ability to congregate and create relationships, the ability of citizens and CSOs to mobilize around issues is obstructed.

Ryota Jonen of the Civic Space Initiative, argues that engaging citizens in the deliberative process and in decision-making process is critical to responsible public policy because, at the end of the day, if citizens are not involved, it is hard to know if policies are addressing their needs.

He also argues that for citizen engagement to be beneficial, information must be available to citizens. This information, though, doesn’t need to come in the form of reports and text-heavy dossiers that just “sit in the bookshelves”. Rather, creative storytelling through visual communication or music, is often more useful to sharing information
VIDEO: Storytelling for Impact


Civil Society and the Dangers of Monoculture: Smart New Primer from Mike Edwards

Duncan Green's picture

Mike Edwards has just written a 3rd edition of his book ‘Civil Society’. It’s a 130 page primer, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy reading. I found some of the conceptual stuff on different understandings of civil society pretty hard going, but was repaid with some really interesting and innovative systems thinking, leading to what I think are some novel suggestions for how NGOs and donors should/shouldn’t try to support civil society in developing countries.

Edwards sets out some fairly arcane (to me anyway) debates, identifying three schools of thought that see CS as

  • ‘Associational life’ that builds trust and social capital (de Toqueville, Robert Puttnam, etc)
  • The Good Society: a good thing in itself
  • A protagonist in the public sphere, incubating debates that will eventually turn into laws and policies (think tobacco campaigners, or women’s rights)

"'What to do' depends on what one understands civil society to be. Devotees of associational life will focus on filling in the gaps and disconnections in the civil society ecosystem, promoting volunteering and voluntary action, securing an “enabling environment” that privileges NGOs and other civic organizations through tax breaks, and protecting them from undue interference through laws and regulations that guarantee freedom of association" (pg. 108)

"Believers in the good society will focus on building positive interactions between institutions in government, the market and the voluntary sector around common goals such as poverty reduction, human rights and deep democracy" (pg. 108)

"Supporters of civil society as the public sphere will focus on promoting access to, and independence for, the structures of communication, extending the paths and meeting grounds that facilitate public deliberation and building the capacities that citizens require to engage with each other across their private boundaries" (pg. 108)

Unsurprisingly, Edwards advocates a synthesis of all three, but then he gets interesting.

Ascending the CSO Engagement Continuum II – Consultations

John Garrison's picture

The Bank has learned a good deal about how to consult civil society over the years. The absence of consultation policies led to some of the most visible CSO advocacy campaigns opposing Bank-financed projects, such as the Narmada Dam in India and the Polonoreste Project in the Brazilian Amazon in the 1980s. Thus, while this third step on the civil society engagement continuum has been one of the most difficult to ascend, it has also shown the clearest progress in terms of more effective consultation practices.  As the latest edition of the World Bank–Civil Society Engagement Review of Fiscal Years 2010–12 demonstrates, today the Bank consults CSOs widely on its strategies, policies, programs, and projects worldwide.   


Can Non-State Service Delivery Undermine Governments?

Otaviano Canuto's picture

policeWhether it is in the U.S. presidential election campaign or as a result of the debt crisis in Europe, people on both sides of the Atlantic are debating the role of the state. Do we need more government or less of it? Do we want more public services provided by the state and funded with taxpayers’ money? Or are we better off with the private sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) doing the job?

What Can We Learn From a Really Annoying Paper on NGOs and Development?

Duncan Green's picture

I’ve got a paper I want you to read, particularly if you work for an NGO or other lobbying outfit. Not because it’s good – far from it – but because reading it and (if you work for an NGO) observing your rising tide of irritation will really help you understand how those working in the private sector, government or the multilateral system feel when they read a generalized and ill-informed NGO attack on their work.
The paper in question is from a reputable institution (Manchester University’s Brooks World Poverty Institute) and authors (Nicola Banks and David Hulme), and is about ‘the role of NGOs and civil society in development and poverty reduction’.  Here’s the abstract:

Blame It on Rio

John Garrison's picture

Unlike the 1984 movie “Blame it on Rio”, which attributed a bawdy affair between a middle-aged man (played by Michael Cain) and a teenager on the tropical vibes of the stunningly beautiful city, the recent hosting of the Rio +20 Conference served to showcase a different face of the Rio ambience -- its global environmental leadership role.  The city not only maintains the world’s two largest urban forests, Pedra Branca and Tijuca (see photo), but has just completed a state of the art waste treatment center which will allow for a 8% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and are installing 300 kilometers of bicycle lanes.  For the World Bank, the city has been the setting for the improbable significant improvement in relations between the Bank and environmental CSOs over the past 20 years.

When Rio hosted the original UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, the Bank participated with a small staff delegation and its modest publications booth at the parallel NGO “Global Forum” held on Flamengo Beach was set on fire by environmental activists.  They were protesting the Bank’s financing of the Narmada Dam project in India, which threatened to displace hundreds of thousands of small farmers without a fair and sustainable resettlement plan in place.  Some were expressing disapproval of the Polonoroeste project funded by the Bank in Brazil where the paving of a highway linking two Amazonian state capitals led to widespread deforestation in the 1980s.  

Can the Bank and CSOs Bridge the Trust Gap?

John Garrison's picture

This was a question asked by numerous participants during a consultation meeting held in Washington on February 29 on the Bank’s proposed Global Partnership for Enhanced Social Accountability (GPESA).  They noted that this lack of trust comes from a longstanding view that the Bank tends to favor governments in detriment of the broader society in many developing countries.  Others noted that the lack of trust comes from the perception that the Bank is not accessible and does not effectively engage civil society in some countries. This contrasts with the view, expressed by several participants, that the Bank has made important strides in opening up and reaching out to civil society at headquarters over the past decade and that this positive momentum should guide GPESA implementation.

Should CSOs Have a Seat at the Table?

John Garrison's picture

The World Bank has experimented with different approaches to including civil society organizations (CSOs) in its decision-making processes over the years. These have varied from regular policy dialogue with CSOs through the Bank – NGO Committee in the 1980s and 1990s, to establishing CSO advisory committees in several Bank units during the 2000s.  Currently, two of these initiatives stand out: the Bank’s Climate Investment Funds have invited 19 CSO representatives (chosen competitively through online voting) to serve as ‘active observers’ on its five Committees and Sub-Committees; and the Bank’s Health Unit has established a CSO 'consultative group' to which it invited 18 CSO leaders to advise the Bank on its health, nutrition, and population agenda. 

From One-Way to Two-Way Exchanges: Gearing Up to Use Communication in Support of Decentralization in Mongolia

Sunjidmaa Jamba's picture

Since Mongolia shifted to a multi-party political system and market economy in the early 1990s, it has become a young and vibrant democracy. Debates among politicians, policymakers, civil society organizations, political and social commentators, and other stakeholders are now an integral part of Mongolian society. These happen through local newspapers and on the TV channels, at citizens’ hall meetings, as well as during cultural events, particularly in rural areas as nomadic herders gather for such event and authorities take that opportunity to communicate with them.

However, these debates may not always be particularly effective in getting to a consensus. Indeed, the heritage of the socialist system can still often be felt: public authorities, particularly at the local level, see communication as a way to disseminate and diffuse information through a traditional media approach. There is much to do to transform communication from a one-way dissemination tool to an instrument for two-way engagement.