• DAC-CSO Reference Group

CSO comments on the draft DAC Policy Instrument on Enabling Civil Society

DAC DRAFT POLICY INSTRUMENT ON ENABLING CIVIL SOCIETY

Consolidated Proposals from 47 CSOs from across the Globe

May 6, 2021


NOTE: This document represents consolidated comments from a vast number of CSOs who engaged throughout the two-week consultation process. For guidance and easier reading, note that the text in RED are in-text suggestions, additions and direct edits. Meanwhile, the text HIGHLIGHTED IN YELLOW are additional observations, general comments, and substantive suggestions.


I PREAMBLE


HAVING REGARD to the Recommendation of the Council on Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development [OECD/LEGAL/0381]; the Recommendation of the Council for Development Co-operation Actors on Managing the Risk of Corruption [OECD/LEGAL/0431]; the Recommendation of the Council on Open Government [OECD/LEGAL/0438]; the DAC Recommendation on the Humanitarian-Development- Peace Nexus [OECD/LEGAL/5019]; and, the DAC Recommendation on Ending Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Harassment in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Assistance: Key Pillars of Prevention and Response [OECD/LEGAL/5020].


HAVING REGARD to the Framework for Dialogue between the DAC and Civil Society Organisations [DCD/DAC(2018)/28/FINAL].


HAVING REGARD to the foundation provided by international instruments and documents on various aspects of enabling civil society, notably the United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights [General Assembly Resolution 217 A]; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [General Assembly Resolution 2200A (XXI)]; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [General Assembly Resolution 2200A (XXI)]; the Declaration on the Right to Development [General Assembly Resolution 41/128]; the Humanitarian Principles; the General Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [A/RES/53/144]; the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise [CO87, 1948], Convention on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining [C098, 1949] and the ILO Centenary Declaration on the Future of Work [2019]; core international human rights treaties protecting and promoting the rights of individuals and groups that civil society actors serve or represent, such as women, children, persons with disabilities, racialized groups, migrants and Indigenous Peoples; the UN Human Rights Council Resolutions on Civil society space: creating and maintaining, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment [A/HRC/RES/24/21] and Civil society space: engagement with international and regional organisations [A/HRC/RES/38/12]; and, relevant regional human rights instruments.


HAVING REGARD to relevant international political commitments, including the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals [A/RES/70/1]; the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation effectiveness principles Indicator 2: Enabling environments for civil society, and outcome documents agreed in 2016 in Nairobi, in 2014 in Mexico, in 2011 in Busan, in 2008 in Accra and in 2005 in Paris; the Good Humanitarian Donorship Principles (2003); New Way of Working (2016); the Grand Bargain (2016); the Financial Action Task Force Best Practices on Combating the Abuse of Non-profit Organizations (Recommendation 8); and CSO standards including the 2010 Istanbul Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness and the Global Standard for CSO Accountability.


RECOGNISING the diversity of civil society actors and roles they can fill – both as independent development and humanitarian actors in their own right and as donor’s implementing partners – in social, economic, cultural and democratic development, peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance, holding development actors to account, promoting and practicing human rights-based approaches, and their roles in contributing to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the pledge to leave no one behind, and to inclusive sustainable development, peace, equality, and democracy.


RECOGNISING that a diverse range of civil society actors, including those on the frontlines of poverty, inequality, conflict, vulnerability and marginalisation, and that support and facilitate participation and inclusion of social and/or democratic civil society voices in development co-operation, peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance processes and contexts, are critical contributors to the 2030 Agenda, the pledge to leave no one behind, inclusive sustainable development, peace, and protecting and strengthening democracy.


RECOGNISING that the diversity of civil society actors and roles they fulfil requires analysis of different development co-operation, peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance contexts, particularly those most at risk to be left behind, to assess the potential positive or negative impacts of donor’s approaches to enabling civil society in partner countries or territories on the civil society sector and civic space, including on local ownership and leadership, power relations, human rights, ending all forms of discrimination and public perceptions of and trust in civil society, in order to ensure donor’s approaches are appropriately tailored to the context.


RECOGNISING that civil society’s ability to exercise the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression, to be well informed about the actions and performance of public institutions and officials, and to make demands on governments and contribute to public policy making and implementation, monitoring, the management of public goods, and the defence of human rights, peace and democracy, is in jeopardy in many places.


RECOGNISING the rise in restrictions that shrink the in-person and online space for civil society to operate and pose threats and danger to civil society actors in many countries, including but not limited to restrictions implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


RECOGNISING that the closing of civic space is part of a broader issue of diminishing respect for human rights, democracy and international humanitarian law in a context of rising autocratisation, that affects the quality and effectiveness of development co-operation, peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance, and ultimately imperils the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the pledge to leave no one behind, inclusive sustainable development, peace, and protecting and strengthening democracy.


RECOGNISING that effective donors’policies and practices related to their support and engagement with civil society actors, in general and especially as relates to enabling partner country or territory civil society actors, including regarding how donors provide and administer financial support, acknowledge CSOs’ right to initiative, who in civil society receives that support, and the kinds of accountability they require from civil society, are critical factors to enabling civil society actors to maximise their contributions to the 2030 Agenda, the pledge to leave no one behind, inclusive sustainable development, peace, and protecting and strengthening democracy.


RECOGNISING that some donor modalities of support for civil society may inadvertently contribute to circumstances that provoke anti-civil society backlash and associated restrictions on civic space, and the imperative of donors taking the necessary steps to ensure that they do no harm in this regard.

RECOGNISING that the effectiveness, transparency and accountability of CSOs is an important objective in its own right, and can bolster CSO’s legitimacy with governments and the public, and in turn provide an important counterweight to civic space restrictions.


RECOGNISING that undemocratic actors and actions from some governments, civil society, or other actors that seek to undermine civic freedoms and human rights, present anti-democratic narratives, propagate misinformation and disinformation, harassment attacks and discrimination targeting civil society increases the vulnerability of civil society more broadly and shrinks civic space.


RECOGNISING that donor’s policies and practices related to how they: respect, protect and promote civic space; support and engage with civil society; and incentivize or limit CSO effectiveness, transparency and accountability are interlinked, with efforts to address any one of them potentially affecting the others, and as such, merit being addressed together.


RECOGNISING the importance and responsibility of donors showing solidarity and political commitment and taking action to enable and support civil society to maximise civil society’s contribution to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, the pledge to leave no one behind, inclusive sustainable development, peace, and protecting and strengthening democracy.


RECOGNISING that DAC members and non-DAC members having adhered to this DAC policy instrument (hereafter the “Adherents”) have differing legal, institutional and policy frameworks and domestic contexts relevant to their roles in development co-operation and humanitarian assistance. Nevertheless, the main principles, fundamental values and directions set out below shall guide their implementation of measures for the enabling of civil society.


Proposals for Clauses Not Included


  • RECOGNISING that the contribution of civil society to the effectiveness of the SDGs and human rights is highly dependent on the willingness of donors and recipients of ODA to create and maintain an enabling environment for civil society, and that this enabling environment is directly related to the share of ODA or local funding going to and through CSOs



II DEFINITIONS


AGREES that for the purpose of the present DAC policy instrument, the following definitions are used:


· Civil society refers to uncoerced human association or interaction by which individuals implement individual or collective actions to address or develop shared needs, ideas, interests and beliefs, as well as the formal, semi- or non-formal forms of associations and the individuals involved in them.[1]Civil society is distinct from states, private for-profit enterprises, and the family.


· Civil society organisations (CSOs) are an organisational representation of civil society and include all not-for- profit, non-state,[2] non-violent and self-governing organisations outside of the family in which people come together to pursue shared needs, ideas, interests, faith and beliefs, including formal, legally registered organisations as well as informal associations without legal status but with a structure and activities.[3]


· Civic space is the physical, virtual, legal, regulatory, and policy space where civil society and the persons in it can, among other things, securely exercise their rights to the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, expression and participation, in keeping with internationally agreed human rights.[4]




III RESPECTING, PROTECTING AND PROMOTING CIVIC SPACE


RECOMMENDS that Adherents, when acting in their roles as development co-operation and humanitarian assistance providers, respect, promote and protect civic space, by:


1. Developing clear policies on the value of an inclusive and independent civil society and on the importance of respecting, protecting and promoting civic space in line with rights to the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, expression, and participation.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • Can we address the repercussions for a government’s failure to respect the basic freedoms?

  • Elaborate on recognized trade union rights such as collective bargaining in the context of freedom of association and discuss the inclusion of the freedom of religion, conscience and belief.


2. Engaging in dialogue with partner country or territory governments:

a) on the value of an inclusive and independent civil society;

b) on the need to respect, protect and promote the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association and expression;

c) on legal space for CSOs to seek and secure necessary resources; and

d) to promote and support meaningful and effective civil society participation and inclusive dialogue with all levels of partner country or territory governments and other institutions, including parliaments, the private sector (social dialogue), the general public.


3. Co-ordinating among donors and with international, regional and national bodies to report and monitor openings and restrictions of civic space and enhance access to and sharing of information to foster stronger, more coherent proactive and preventive actions, including early warning, emergency funding, to respect, protect and promote civic space and for the physical and legal protection of civil society actors at risk including humanitarian workers and human rights and environmental defenders.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • with special focus on those facing extreme risks as e.g., advocates for social, economic and environmental justice and watchdog organizations and rights defenders.




4. Supporting and engaging with international, regional and national bodies and initiatives that work to respect, protect and promote civic space and human rights defenders.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • ensuring they have the financial civil society actors at risk including humanitarian workers and human capacity to remain effective. rights defenders.

  • The closer to the region the most effective. However, the under funding of existing human rights structures at regional and international level is an issue in itself.


5. Investing in partner country or territory governments’ and members’ institutions for accountability, public participation in decision-making, and oversight and in their legal and regulatory frameworks and capacities relevant to enabling civil society, including capacities to provide financial support to civil society actors in transparent, accountable, fair and non-discriminatory manner, in line with International Human Rights standards.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • In dealing with national governments, nuancing and contextualizing needed.


6. Working together with the private sector, especially Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and independent media where appropriate, to promote and strengthen open civic space, protect civil society actors at risk, and promote social dialogue between social partners, consistent with the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, as a prerequisite for conducive business and media environment, ensuring that the private sector actors, with whom Adherents engage, respect principles and practices related to the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression for civil society, and ensuring transparency and accountability to these principles, consistent with the application of, and an accountability to U.N. guiding principles on human rights and business.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • while recognising the necessity to secure space for CSOs’ advocacy work regarding the environments.

  • identify the potential negative impact private sector might have on civic space and human rights and environmental defenders, through their business operations and investments, and put in place mechanisms to private sector actors to mitigate and prevent those impacts and recognize the role of an open civil society and the work of Human Rights Defenders and Environmental Defenders.


7. Exploring and sharing strategies among donors and with civil society actors to counter misinformation and disinformation, harassment, discrimination and anti-democratic narratives targeting civil society that emanate from some governments, civil society, or other actors, including through promotion of positive narratives about civil society.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • while also providing the resources needed do so.


8. Leveraging opportunities for greater civil society participation in public policy offered by digital technologies and data in partner countries or territories, by, where appropriate:


a) supporting digital rights across legal and regulatory frameworks as well as international standards, including human rights; and


b) strengthening digital and data literacy and access to infrastructure to promote safe, accessible and secure digital communications and data, and digital inclusion, particularly of persons in the most vulnerable or marginalised positions.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • It is important to define “digital rights”


9. Addressing challenges associated with digital technologies including risks related to surveillance, internet shutdowns, online censorship, data abuse and misuse, misinformation and disinformation, harassment, discrimination, and attacks, which restrict or criminalize civil society actors in partner countries or territories, as well as systemic inequalities that lead to digital disenfranchisement of civil society actors.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • including the misuse of “cyber-laws” to unproportionally restrict fundamental freedoms


10. Ensuring that support to partner governments does not advance or enable projects or activities that undermine protections for human rights, leading to abuses of human rights, restrict civic space, or deny opportunities for public participation.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • Another respondent had an addition that partly overlaps with this one – “Aligning their development cooperation with a coherent human rights-based policy to make sure that development cooperation does not compromise or harm human rights and civil society space; and therefore introducing binding review procedures to ensure that political decisions and measures do not negatively affect human rights and civil society space in partner countries or territories.“




IV SUPPORTING AND ENGAGING WITH CIVIL SOCIETY


RECOMMENDS that Adherents, when acting in their roles as development co-operation and humanitarian assistance providers, support and engage with civil society by:


1. Establishing and implementing, in consultation with civil society, policies or strategies for working with civil society in both partner countries or territories and donor countries that:


a) articulate value-driven objectives for working with a diverse range of civil society actors, as independent development or humanitarian actors in their own right and as implementing partners;


b) aim to strengthen democratic ownership through an inclusive, diverse and independent civil society in partner countries or territories;


c) take into account contextual risks or opportunities for civil society and civic spaces; and


d) integrate these policy or strategy positions into wider development co-operation, peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance policies or strategies.

Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • Consultation is good, but not enough – CSOs need to be fully included in policies and strategies – in particular if they aren’t solely regarded as implementing partners, but as truly independent actors.

2. Ensure full civil society participation in priority setting, policy and programme design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation by engaging a diversity of local and international civil society actors, especially in partner countries or territories, in more structured, institutionalised, inclusive, and accessible dialogue, including with other actors such as parliaments, the private sector, and the general public, and co-ordinating such dialogue with other donors where relevant.


3. Increasing financial support to a diversity of civil society actors, particularly those at greatest risk to be left behind, with an emphasis on independent development and humanitarian actors in their own right, but also civil society actors as implementing partners including by, where feasible and appropriate, increasing the availability of flexible, multi-year and predictable support for civil society actor’s “right of initiative,” core support, and programme-based support, taking into account the importance of alignment with civil society’s strategic objectives, ideas, and approaches for addressing local priorities.



Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • It’s great that CSOs are considered here as independent actors, but this policy doesn’t really outline how donors’ respective support should look like in practice, apart from providing some “core funding … where feasible” etc.

  • This [core support and program-based support] is a very important point. It is however unclear, how these funding instruments will be designed, what requirements will be made for “core funding” etc. Civil society should participate in the design and implementation of funding strategies, policies and instruments.

  • work through funding initiatives that include communities in grant decision making


4. Reducing and streamlining financial and administrative requirements for civil society support to lower transaction costs for civil society and donors including through proportionate, risk-based approaches, harmonising requirements with other donors, including where appropriate the use of multi-donors’ pooled funding, and using civil society actor’s own or co-defined formats for proposals, monitoring and reporting.


5. Promoting and investing in the leadership of local civil society actors in partner countries or territories by, where appropriate:


a) increasing the availability and accessibility of direct and diverse forms of flexible, multi-year and predictable financial support, including core support, for partner country or territory civil society actors, to enhance their financial independence, accountability, sustainability and local ownership;


b) supporting locally initiated civil society strategic alliances, networks, platforms and resource centres at national, sub-national and international levels, that can


a) work to strengthen inclusive and diverse civil society actors, including their ability to develop local financial resource streams, and


b) represent civil society voices to international and regional intra-state institutions and arenas, governments, donors and other stakeholders; and


c) ensuring civil society actors in partner countries or territories are involved in decision-making based on equal power relations, on the strategies, on the design, budgets and implementation of initiatives and programmes undertaken by supported civil society strategic alliances, networks, platforms and resource centres.


d) strengthening the capacity of civil society actors in policy analysis and influencing, in relevant policy areas, based on best practices to protect and/or enable civic space.



Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • Special funding modalities should be set up to support civil society strategic alliances, networks, platforms and resource centres at national and sub-national levels

  • Supporting cross-border civil society strategic alliances and networking for strengthening CSOs capacities to utilize international fora as a tool for promoting sustainable development


6. Exploring and sharing lessons on how best to enable a broad range of formal and informal, traditional and new types of civil society actors and actions, at regional, national and sub-national levels in partner countries or territories, such as social movements, not-for profit social economy actors, trade unions, faith-based organisations, and civil society actors representing persons in the most vulnerable or marginalised positions (e.g. women, LGBTQ+ communities, children and youth, persons with disabilities), and supporting these civil society actors and actions.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

· Need to share lessons on financial risk taking. The biggest issue with informal groups is financing and risk sharing.

· This may require innovative funding mechanisms in order to bridging the gap between reporting needs and using potential of informal civil society momentum.

7. Enhancing transparency and accessibility of information on funding for civil society in partner countries and territories by disaggregating the information by partner country or territory to which it is destined, while balancing transparency with potential security and political risks for funded civil society actors in sensitive environments.


8. Supporting and working with civil society to advance global citizenship education for inclusive sustainable development and peace, raise public awareness in member countries, and facilitate people’s and civil society’s active engagement and advocacy in contributing to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • Should be linked to advancing UNESCO’s Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) agenda

  • Need to define more clearly what “global citizenship” means and how that might correspond with local or national perspective of many civil society actors, who may not necessarily identify themselves with “Northern” concepts/goals of globality.

  • Also, engaging with civil society actors, including humanitarian organisations, to raise public awareness and support for ending humanitarian needs and leaving no one behind, as well as for all states and actors to uphold and respect International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law and Refugee Law, and ensure humanitarian access to those in need.




9. Adhering to DAC and other international standards related to the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, to ending sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment in development co-operation and humanitarian assistance and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, in support and engagement with civil society, while working with civil society actors to help ensure that support enables them to most effectively address these issues in their activities and organisations.


10. Pursuing co-ordination and dialogue across government, and with related institutions as appropriate, with a view to ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law and international labour standards, and respect for the principle of non-discrimination, and to explore how to address obstacles in their own policies and systems to supporting civil society’s work with persons in the most vulnerable and marginalised positions, often in humanitarian or fragile contexts, that may arise due to the misapplication or misunderstanding of international counter-terrorism financing standards, anti-money laundering rules and regulations, and other measures aimed at protecting CSOs from potential financing abuse, and support awareness raising on the positive impact civil society has on terrorism prevention.


11. Incorporating adaptive and flexible processes into results management of, and reporting on, civil society funding, that include goals, strategies, indicators and processes, co-defined with civil society as well as indicators to assess strengthening an inclusive, participatory and independent civil society in partner countries or territories as a result in its own right.



Proposals for New Clauses Not Included

  • Ensuring due diligence in the use of Official Development Assistance to guarantee the respect of human and labour rights, the rights of indigenous people, gender equality and non discrimination. Adherents should hold to a rights-based foundation for all programming, ensuring that no donor-funded actors are supporting initiatives with policies or practices that preclude or hamper civic space or work actively against the fundamental freedoms of civil society organizations or their members. Adherents should develop internal government-wide review systems to promote their own policy coherence in ODA, to ensure that programs do not inadvertently or deliberately work against or ignore civil society freedoms in order to secure other short-term goals. (Addressed in part in New Clause III.10)

  • Adherents should ensure that the private sector actors they fund through development cooperation are fully aware of the principles and practices related to the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression of civil society organizations and their members. Donor governments should secure their written commitment to respect those rights and develop transparent, accessible accountability mechanisms to promote compliance. Programming should include sufficient funds to develop and implement mechanisms for monitoring and reporting on compliance, and access for civil society organizations to timely and appropriate complaint mechanisms and resolution processes. (Adapted and addressed in last part of III.6)

  • Collecting evidence on the added value of CSOs towards enhancing the SDGs at national level demonstrating and communicating the benefits to the general public of a strong civil society, to help CSOs bolster their domestic support. (Importance of new narrative covered with addition to III.7 and IV.9)



V INCENTIVISING CSO EFFECTIVENESS, TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY


RECOMMENDS that Adherents, when acting in their roles as development co-operation and humanitarian assistance providers, incentivise CSO effectiveness, transparency and accountability by:


1. Calling on and supporting voluntary CSO efforts to build on existing good practice and standards in CSO-led self-regulation, transparency and accountability mechanisms to broaden CSO participation in such mechanisms at partner country or territory, regional, or international level.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • Need to include considerations for conflict sensitivity in implementing accountability mechanisms


2. Calling on and supporting CSOs to develop appropriate internal systems to meet relevant human rights standards to prevent and respond to the root causes of discrimination, exploitation, abuse or harassment due to gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, language, age, disability, sexual orientation, or sexual identity, in their activities and organisations.


Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • Support the generation of political thought in civil society (CSO) through research and monitoring that generate public opinion on the sectoral and territorial policies of a country based on compliance with the 2030 Agenda and a gender perspective.


3. Working with and supporting CSOs to invest in mutual capacity strengthening, especially at partner country or territory level, to address their vulnerabilities and bolster their resilience and effectiveness, including capacities to protect and promote civic space – inter alia by paying attention to the distinct barriers and risks faced by particularly vulnerable CSOs such as those working in human rights – and to provide mutual defense and support with respect to threats to civic space and human rights, and to foster accountability.




Other Proposals, Guidance and Interpretation

  • CSOs need more support and financial means to be able to step up their resilience and accountability). This should be connecte