INCLUDE Platform
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New roles of CSOs for Inclusive Development

The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NWO-WOTRO Science for Global development, and INCLUDE have joined forces for the research programme ‘New roles of CSOs for inclusive development’ (hereafter called the ‘Assumptions Programme’). The Assumptions Programme investigates the assumptions, solutions and problems underlying the civil society policy framework ‘Dialogue & Dissent. The programme will look at if and how the assumptions underlying the theory of change on which the Dialogue & Dissent framework is based will play out in the power and stakeholder context in which civil society organizations (CSOs) operate. Scrutinizing the assumptions underlying the policy framework is essential in order to build a more credible policy framework and a more sustainable policy strategy. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs will use the knowledge generated in the ongoing learning agenda with its partners in the current Dialogue & Dissent framework (2016–2020) and as input to the design of the next civil society policy framework from 2019 onwards.

Six research groups, which have been granted funding by NWO-WOTRO, will investigate the position of CSOs around three core themes:

  • CSOs and civic engagement
  • CSOs and the aid chain
  • CSOs in an enabling environment

Four projects will be conducted in Africa (three in Kenya, one in Ethiopia), one in Ukraine and one in India. All six research project are linked to projects implemented in LLMICs by CSOs supported by the Dialogue & Dissent framework. Starting in December 2017, the research projects will have a maximum duration of 18 months and consist of 2 parts: a literature review (3 months max) followed by empirical research (15 months max). The different studies will contribute to the evidence-base of the policy framework Dialogue & Dissent and support CSOs. Each research project will have two objectives:

  • Generating new, evidence-based knowledge on the assumptions of the theory of change underlying the Dialogue & Dissent framework
  • Making this knowledge accessible, available and applicable to policymakers and CSOs in the Netherlands and in LLMICs

As knowledge generation alone is not enough to ensure changes in practices and policies, the research groups also have to share their knowledge in an accessible way with policymakers and CSOs in the Netherlands and LLMICs. During the 18-month project timeframe, INCLUDE will organize workshops and other knowledge sharing activities that bring together researchers and other stakeholders. This will make the generated knowledge available and accessible to possible (end-) users.

CSOs in motion

Civil society organizations are groups of citizens who organize themselves to pursue goals that concern a wider group in society. They are present in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members. CSOs can fulfil social, economic and political roles. The new roles of CSOs are becoming more important and are increasingly focusing on lobbying, advocacy and service delivery. The issues that CSOs raise are interconnected and demand an allied approach from local and global policy actors. This interconnectedness also requires different types of cooperation between northern and southern CSOs.

Dialogue & Dissent

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports CSOs in LLMICs in their development role. This policy is based on the assumption that a diverse civil society is essential for inclusive development. Based on the increased importance of the political role of CSOs, the Ministry has shifted the focus in its civil society policy framework to the political role of CSOs. The policy framework, Dialogue & Dissent, aims to tackle the root causes of poverty and inequality while taking into account the interconnectedness between issues in developing countries and in the Netherlands.

Box: Dialogue & Dissent

The overall goal of ‘Dialogue & Dissent’ is to enhance the lobbying and advocacy capacities of CSOs in LLMICs. The framework aims to support CSOs in their mission to contribute to sustainable, inclusive development through their local, national and international networks. Underlying the framework is a theory of change. The framework, which was implemented in 2016 and will run up to 2020, contains five main support elements:

  • Strategic Partnerships (SPs): In the SPs, a consortia of 25 CSO will work to strengthen the lobby and advocacy capacity of CSOs in LLMICs. Subsequent lobbying and advocacy activities will focus on various themes including women’s rights, press freedom and the sustainable use of natural resources. This policy is unique as it will channel €1 billion euros exclusively towards fostering the political role of CSOs, and because the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will play an active and strategic role as partner in helping achieve the jointly-agreed objectives.
  • The Accountability Fund (AF): Through the AF, Dutch embassies can provide direct funding to CSOs in LLMICs. Embassies are often keenly aware of the political scope civil society organizations have in the country in question and the AF allows them to respond directly to existing needs. This approach recognizes the increased importance of CSOs in these countries and their growing capacity to achieve results independently.
  • Voice: Regular aid programmes often fail to sufficiently reach those who are excluded because of disability, ethnic origin, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or gender. Voice aims to reach and support advocacy organizations for the most marginalized and discriminated groups to enable them to effectively defend their interests.
  • Leading from the South: Three Southern Regional Women’s Funds (Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean) and one worldwide Indigenous Women’s fund have been selected to finance women’s organizations, movements and networks in the South to strengthen their lobbying and advocacy capacity on gender equality and women’s empowerment and on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 5.
  • Defending political space: In many countries it is becoming more and more difficult for CSOs to do their work due to restrictive legislation, and even threats and intimidation. It is, therefore, essential that donors not only provide financial, but also political, support to create an enabling environment for CSOs. In this regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs monitors political space through its embassies, takes part in various international networks, and supports the international civil rights movement CIVICUS.

As described in the call for proposals by NWO-WOTRO, June 2017


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