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
The Civic Space Initiative is a joint effort of World Movement for Democracy, the International Center for Nonprofit Law, Article 19, and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. Each participating organization has a different mandate and varied expertise and reach, but they all share the common goal of strengthening civil society worldwide. The Civic Space Initiative seeks to foster an enabling legal environment for civil society organizations, and focuses on civil society legal initiatives at the global, regional, and national levels. Globally, the CSI works with the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, facilitating consultations with civil society and providing research and organizational support to the UNSR. At the regional level, the CSI promotes greater protection for the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression by working with regional bodies such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Organization of American States (OAS). Locally, the CSI provides technical assistance tocivil society activists to advance legal spaces for civil society organizations to better respond to regulatory threats.
You can watch this video and others like it from leading voices in the development field at the Public Sphere YouTube Channel.