INCLUDE Platform

Building the legitimacy of land rights advocacy in Kenya

Navigating collaboration and confrontation: success factors and constraints for CSOs in negotiating inclusion in land deals in Kenya, in the context of increased private sector importance

CSOs are shifting away from traditional service delivery towards advocacy in a bid to address the root causes of poverty and social injustice. The Dutch government supports such a reorientation in favour of a more political role for CSOs through its funding of CSOs. But can civil society organizations legitimately advocate for communities without ‘getting their hands dirty’, i.e. without running services for the community in partnership with local authorities or the private sector? This study focuses primarily on the (presumed) tension between the cooperative and representational role played by CSOs. The research investigates whether it is desirable for individual CSOs to opt for either cooperation or confrontation and act together in advocacy coalitions or, alternatively, whether there is a rationale for combining these two roles even within a single CSO.

Put differently, the aim of the research is to investigate the effect of specialization in terms of the different roles that CSOs play, from the co-delivery of services to their critical ‘watchdog’ function, each of which involves varying levels of political activism. The study examines to what extent playing a cooperative role strengthens or weakens the representational role of CSOs. For this purpose, it investigates how the performance of such roles affects the CSO’s legitimacy, autonomy and local embeddedness –both as perceived by their own constituency, as well as by state and private sector actors.

The empirical study will encompass two case studies in which CSOs advocate for fair and inclusive land deals in Kenya. Kenya hosts a wide array of CSOs advocating for inclusive approaches to land investment. A literature review will be conducted as well as a document analysis, stakeholder mapping and interviews. The research will provide input for the future policy choices of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs by providing insights into the desired level of specialization of CSOs in terms of their different political roles and, more broadly, between their political and service-oriented roles.

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  • ActionAid Kenya
  • ActionAid NL
  • African Studies Centre Leiden
  • Moi University
  • Radboud University Nijmegen

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