• 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. Lev