The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Assistance was adopted by the DAC on 6 July, 2021. The DAC Recommendation aims to support DAC members and other development co-operation and humanitarian assistance providers to enhance how they address civic space and work with civil society actors, while underscoring that civil society actors must also take action to enhance their effectiveness, transparency and accountability.
A call to action for development co-operation and humanitarian assistance providers to enable civil society
The 2030 Agenda calls for civil society engagement in localisation, implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To support the work of the DAC, the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate gathered evidence on how to better enable civil society in this regard. Sources of note include the 2018 Development Co operation Report chapter on civil society and leaving no one behind, the 2020 DAC Members and Civil Society study, and the 2020 Foresight Policy Paper on Digital Transformation and the Futures of Civic Space to 2030. These reports and sources cited in them, including the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC) Making Development Co-operation More Effective: 2019 Progress Report, showed that more must be done in this decade of action to enable civil society actors to maximise their contributions to the 2030 Agenda and to inclusive sustainable development more generally, and to help tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences. Civil society actors are critical contributors to all of the SDGs. They are especially central to the peaceful and inclusive societies and accountable and inclusive institutions of SDG 16 as well as to protecting and strengthening democracy. Civil society actors are also pivotal to the revitalised global partnership of SDG 17.
In this context, DAC members indicated that now is a critical moment to strengthen their ability in their role as development co-operation and humanitarian assistance providers, to take further steps toward enabling civil society. To help support them in this endeavour the DAC High Level Meeting Communiqué 2020 committed DAC members to develop a new DAC instrument on enabling civil society. The necessity of enabling civil society was also highlighted in the April 2020 Joint Statement by the OECD Development Assistance Committee on the COVID-19 Crisis. At the 2021 OECD DAC Civil Society Days, participants from among DAC members, other development and humanitarian assistance co-operation providers, partner country governments and civil society organisations (CSOs) called on the DAC to take ambitious steps to strengthen its contribution to enabling civil society.
The DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society is the first international standard focused on the actions of providers, and that is specific to civil society actors as contributors to the 2030 Agenda, the pledge to leave no one behind, inclusive sustainable development, effective humanitarian assistance, peacebuilding, and protecting and strengthening democracy.
An inclusive process for developing the DAC Recommendation
Discussions during the development of the DAC Recommendation were held primarily in the DAC Community of Practice (CoP) on Civil Society, made up of experts on civil society partnerships and civic space from DAC member headquarters, with further discussions taking place in both formal and informal DAC meetings, with the DAC Informal Reference Group on Effective Development Co-operation, with the DAC Network on Governance (GovNet), and with the DAC External Relations Group. The GPEDC was also consulted through its Action Area 2.4 on civil society partnerships. Extensive consultations took place with experts across the Development Co-operation Directorate and with other relevant teams across the OECD, in particular the Public Governance Directorate, which facilitated consultation with the Public Governance Committee’s Working Party on Open Government. The Financial Action Task Force Secretariat was also consulted.
Consultation with DAC member, international and partner country or territory CSOs from within and beyond the DAC-CSO Reference Group was critical throughout the process, as was DAC members’ direct consultation with CSOs in their countries. Input was also received from the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD together with the Trade Union Development Cooperation Network (ITUC-TUDCN). The International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) specifically contributed input from humanitarian CSOs’ perspective.
Enabling civil society: Three pillars
The DAC Recommendation addresses together three inter-linked pillars of how development co-operation and humanitarian assistance providers enable civil society by: 1) respecting, protecting and promoting civic space; 2) supporting and engaging with civil society; and 3) incentivising CSO effectiveness, transparency and accountability. These three pillars address a constellation of challenges impeding civil society actors from reaching their full potential as revealed by the evidence gathered. Firstly, DAC members have expressed considerable concern that diminishing respect for human rights and democracy in a context of rising autocratisation around the globe is eroding the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression, posing a real threat to civic space. Secondly, DAC members understand that there is work to be done to strengthen the way they support and engage with civil society actors to ensure the most effective use of the resources DAC members devote to their partnerships with these actors. Thirdly, while civil society actors have been playing critical roles in the Covid-19 response, recovery and resilience building, there are opportunities to enhance their effectiveness, transparency and accountability. The coherence and complementarity between these three pillars is central to the DAC Recommendation’s strength and character and the ability to address the pillars together is a particular value-added of the DAC. Implicit in the DAC Recommendation is that addressing any of the three pillars alone would not be sufficient to enable civil society actors to maximise their varied contributions to the 2030 Agenda and its pledge to leave no one behind, to inclusive sustainable development, effective humanitarian assistance, peacebuilding, and protecting and strengthening democracy, and, more specifically, to the Covid-19 response and recovery.
The DAC Recommendation is underpinned by a recognition of the diversity within civil society and the varied roles civil society actors play. It’s central premise is that development co-operation and humanitarian assistance providers should seek to enable an inclusive and independent civil society, especially in partner countries or territories where official development co-operation is ultimately destined for. The DAC Recommendation seeks to enable civil society actors both as independent development and humanitarian actors in their own right, with their own priorities, plans and approaches, as well as as development co-operation and humanitarian assistance providers’ implementing partners.
Dissemination, implementation support and monitoring
The DAC Recommendation will be disseminated via existing meetings and events involving varied actors including DAC members, other development co-operation and humanitarian assistance providers, multilateral institutions, academia and think tanks, and CSOs. These include regional dialogues such as the Latin American and Caribbean-DAC Dialogue and the Arab-DAC Dialogue; the Global Meeting of Development Co-operation Providers, and policy reform workshops. Dissemination will also occur through the DAC’s subsidiary bodies, networks and communities of practice. Collaboration with the DAC-CSO Reference Group will support dissemination to and through CSOs around the globe. A launch event of the DAC Recommendation will be co-organised with DAC member champions. To support implementation, the Development Co-operation Directorate will work with the DAC CoP on Civil Society and consult CSOs in the DAC-CSO Reference Group to develop toolkits to support implementation. Implementation support will also involve technical guidance and peer learning such as through workshops, and/or direct support to Adherents on demand. The DAC CoP on Civil Society would act as the primary forum for peer learning, providing a source of mutual, practical support to each other’s and other Adherents’ implementation efforts. The DAC will review the implementation of the DAC Recommendation, including through the existing DAC peer review mechanism, and support lesson learning, adaptation, and sharing of best practices to build understanding and capability and a report reviewing implementation of these measures will be produced within five years of adoption.
The text is available here.