Emily Moreton (Standards and Code Lead) and Sarah Burrows (Partnerships and Policy Lead)
ACFID
May 23, 2022

It’s now almost one year since the OECD DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Assistance was adopted with unanimous approval from DAC members. The Recommendation outlines clear and practical guidance on how DAC members and other development and humanitarian assistance providers can respect and promote civic space, support civil society and incentivise civil society accountability and effectiveness. Importantly, the Recommendation calls for greater support for CSO-led self-regulatory standards, specifically recognising the Global Standard for CSO Accountability as a valuable and globally relevant accountability mechanism for civil society.

An Australian perspective
The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) worked closely with the Australian Government on the key concepts and wording captured in the Recommendation. Along with others, ACFID pushed for the inclusion and recognition of existing CSO-led principles and standards, including the Global Standard for CSO Accountability and Istanbul Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness. Placing them front and centre helps to ensure that accountability is a shared responsibility, that should be shaped by CSOs and not just donors, and that there is not a proliferation of unaligned accountability standards. It recognises the significant work already done to articulate what effective, transparent and accountable civil society organisations look like.

Since its adoption, the Recommendation has provided a framework and common language to advocate to and engage with DAC Governments to protect and promote civic space, and to strengthen investment to and through CSOs. ACFID advocates for civil society as a cornerstone of a resilient and inclusive Australian development program. To undertake this role, civil society must be resilient, vibrant, and free to operate. Our Civil Society Policy Brief, which outlines ACFID’s vision for an effective and inclusive civil society, has been informed by the Recommendation and will drive our ongoing discussions with Government and civil society partners. Having the Global Standard included in the Recommendation has provided a compelling rationale for our Government to support the implementation of the Global Standard in our Pacific region.

Where to next?
As focus shifts to implementing the Recommendation, it is essential that civil society remains involved. For Global Standard partners and supporters, the Recommendation provides a new opportunity to re-engage with DAC Governments looking for a practical and ready-made opportunity to act on their commitment to support and incentivise CSO accountability and effectiveness. More broadly, the Recommendation provides the foundation and shared language for civil society to engage in conversations with DAC Governments about their role in respecting and promoting civic space and support for strong civil society.

So, what can we do to promote and encourage effective implementation of the Recommendation? While the strategies and activities will vary from country to country, here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Familiarise ourselves with the Recommendation and what DAC members have committed to.
  • Reference the Recommendation and its recognition of the Global Standard when speaking with donors and partners or preparing funding proposals.
  • Use the Recommendation as a guide to conduct a mapping and assessment of donor engagement in civil society programs to identify gaps and opportunities.
  • Hold an event or develop information materials to raise awareness of the Recommendation with your members and other civil society partners.
  • Convene consultations that bring together civil society partners and DAC donor government representatives to discuss local civic space challenges and how they can better support and engage with civil society.
  • Participate in regional dialogues and civil society consultations as part of the existing DAC peer review mechanism.

Now is the time to build momentum and encourage DAC members to uphold their commitment to the Recommendation. ACFID will continue to engage with the Australian Government on the implementation of the Recommendation and hope to see clear, practical steps taken in the coming years.
Read the OECD DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Assistance.

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