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Civil society and aid effectiveness

Concept paper

Advisory Group on Civil Society and Aid Effectiveness

10 June 2007

SARPN acknowledges Civicus as a source of this document:
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Executive Summary

  1. This paper is intended to provide a common, though evolving, frame of reference to guide AG-sponsored consultations in the pursuit of three outcomes:

    • Better understanding and recognition of the roles of CSOs as development actors and as part of the international aid architecture, and engagement of CSOs in general discussions of aid effectiveness (recognition and voice)
    • Improved understanding of the applicability and limitations of the Paris Declaration for addressing issues of aid effectiveness of importance to CSOs, including how CSOs can better contribute to aid effectiveness (applying and enriching the international aid effectiveness agenda)
    • Improved understanding of good practice relating to civil society and aid effectiveness by CSOs themselves, by donors and by developing country governments (lessons of good practice).

  2. The paper addresses each of these three outcomes in turn.
Recognition and voice

  1. Three general categories of normative roles are identified for civil society and CSOs. These include:

    • Promoting citizen participation
    • Providing effective delivery of development programs and operations
    • The social empowerment of particular groups and the realization of human rights.

  2. CSOs are also seen to be part of the international aid architecture in three ways:

    • As donors
    • As channels or recipients of official donor assistance
    • By virtue of their role as watchdogs of the public good pushing for donor funds to be used in ways that maximize their impact on the poor.

  3. The importance of civil society’s involvement in development and as part of the aid architecture suggests that CSOs deserve a voice in discussions of aid effectiveness, and one of the roles of the AG will be to provide advice to the WP-EFF and to the HLF3 Steering Committee on how best to engage civil society in the dialogue on aid effectiveness.
Applying and enriching the international aid effectiveness agenda

  1. The AG takes the Paris Declaration and the aid effectiveness principles contained therein as a reference point upon which to build as required to meet the requirements of its specific mandate. However, it notes that the Paris Declaration was designed to provide guidance to official donors and partner governments with emphasis on the needs of low income and relatively aid dependent countries.

  2. In order to address aid effectiveness issues of importance to CSOs, the paper enquires into the role of civil society that is implied in the Paris Declaration and how that perspective could be enriched in order to reflect more fully the contributions of civil society to development and social change.

  3. It then explores the aid effectiveness principles underpinning the Paris Declaration, asking how those principles could be applied to civil society and how the principles might have to be enriched to enhance their applicability. Four areas are covered:

    • Local ownership, alignment and partnership
    • Donor coordination and harmonization and program-based approaches
    • Managing for results
    • Mutual accountability.

  4. In considering the application of these subject areas to civil society, the paper takes into account a number of considerations, including the following:

    • An appreciation of the various roles of CSOs as development actors in their own right
    • Explicit recognition of political considerations
    • A broader understanding of the concept of partnerships to include partnerships involving CSOs
    • More explicit allowance for a range of aid delivery models
    • Recognition of institutional performance as a key dimension of aid effectiveness.

Towards lessons of good practice

  1. Section V, finally, takes a closer look at the various relationships involved when dealing with CSOs as part of the aid architecture, and proposes to address each of these from a good practice perspective. From this understanding of the primary relationships involved can be seen to emerge four issue areas that the AG has targeted for the preparation of issue papers to guide consultations.

    • How civil society operates at the country level and the factors conditioning its effectiveness in pursuing development results
    • CSOs from donor countries as donors in their own right or as channels of official donor aid and how they relate to their developing-country partners
    • The role of partner country governments in establishing an enabling environment and as channels of official donor aid for CSOs and
    • Models of donor support.

  2. A fifth thematic issue area worthy of special attention is a cross-cutting one focused on issues of accountability and policy dialogue. Although this subject could in principle be dealt with separately in each of the other four issue areas, it is of special interest and complexity and may deserve separate treatment.

  3. The next step will be the preparation of these issue papers, while preparatory work proceeds for the organization of consultations at the national, regional and international levels over the coming months.

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