Policy Issues in Global Affairs Partnerships with CSOs




1.  Global Affairs Policy on Partnerships with CSOs (2017)    Go to this section.

2.  Focusing on Poverty and Rights Issues in GAC Disbursements for CSOs    Go to this section

2.1  GAC Gender Equality Marker

2.2  Focus on countries where poverty is prevalent

2.3   Focus on countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

3.  Supporting Small and Medium-Sized CSOs in Development Cooperation    Go to this section

        3.1  Impact on Small and Medium Organizations

3.2  AidWatch Canada study on the effectiveness of small and medium sized Canadian CSOs in development cooperation

4.  Supporting an Enabling Environment for CSOs as Development Actors    Go to this section

4.1  Canada’s commitment to supporting an enabling environment for CSOs in developing countries

4.2  Global commitment to an enabling environment for CSOs


See also Trends in Global Affairs Partnerships with CSOs  Go to this page.


1.  Global Affairs Policy on Partnerships with CSOs (2017)


In September 2017, the Minister for Development Cooperation launched a updated Global Affairs policy for civil society organizations, entitled Canada’s Policy for Civil Society Partnerships for International Assistance: A Feminist Approach.  This updated Policy is the outcome of a consultative process with civil society and GAC to revise the February 2015 policy adopted by the previous Conservative Government, Development and Humanitarian Assistance Civil Society Partnership Policy. The updated Policy recognizes the importance of partnerships with CSOs for the implementation of Global Affairs’ program priorities. It continues to acknowledge that Global Affairs’ partnerships with CSOs are based on the notion that CSOs are development actors in their own right, not instruments of government.

In the crucial area of  predictable, equitable, flexible, and transparent funding mechanisms, Global Affairs acknowledges:

“that equitable access to a mix of short-, medium-, and long-term funding, appropriate to the context, can enhance the achievement of international assistance outcomes and support a thriving civil society sector. Global Affairs Canada also recognizes that responsive selection mechanisms and more flexible funding can provide the impetus for innovative approaches, and that CSOs require time and effort to plan their programming.”

The Policy continues to commit to an annual institutionalized dialogue “to review mutual implementation of the Policy against its objectives and action areas, discuss the evolving global and domestic CSO challenges and opportunities and exchange knowledge and good practices.”

The Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) has prepared a short Brief assessing the revised Policy.  According to this CCIC analysis, the revised Policy:

1.  Ensures coherence with the new Feminist International Assistance Policy and with the UN Agenda 2030;

2. Establishes a clearer, broader purpose for the Policy, and instills a new sense of partnership;

3. Maintains the original Policy’s commitment to CSO independence and diverse roles, as well as the Istanbul Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness;

5. Acknowledges the importance of an enabling environment for CSOs in both Canada and developing countries;

6. Grants greater profile, relative to the original Policy, to humanitarian response and humanitarian principles;

7. Commits the government to new funding mechanisms and to streamlining and accelerating funding selection and reporting procedures

8. Includes “example” action areas under each of the nine objectives of the Policy; and

9. Commits the government to developing an implementation plan in consultation with civil society. 

Data calculated and posted November 2017.


2.  Focus on Poverty and Rights Issues in GAC Disbursements for CSOs


The GAC’s Canada’s Policy for Civil Society Partnerships for International Assistance: A Feminist Approach recognizes the central importance of support for CSOs  “to drive change, provide valuable insights regarding conditions on the ground and contribute to poverty reduction, including through socioeconomic development and the delivery of services.” Given the centrality of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, “Global Affairs Canada will therefore work with CSOs and other actors to implement a feminist approach across all its international assistance programs, prioritizing those partnerships, innovations and advocacy activities that have the greatest potential to close gender gaps and advance the government’s priority objective.” 

According to this Policy, GAC support for CSOs should be guided not only by the Feminist International Assistance Policy, but also by the 2008 Canadian ODA Accountability Act, Principles and Good Practice in Humanitarian Donorship, and the Istanbul Principles for Development Effectiveness, among other legislative and policy directives. 

The ODA Accountability Act requires the Minister for Development Cooperation to be assured that all disbursements for ODA 1) reduce poverty; 2) take into account the perspectives of the poor; and 3) are consistent with human rights standards agreed by Canada.  The Policy for Civil Society affirms that Canada is committed to a Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) in its partnerships with civil society.  How can GAC’s  support for CSOs be measured to confirm its consistency to the requirements of the Act, the focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment and a HRBA?  A number of proxy indicators are possible.


2.1 GAC Gender Equality Marker and CSOs


GAC’s Feminist International Assistance Policy makes the commitment that “15 percent of all bilateral international development assistance investments specifically target gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls by 2021-22.”  Moreover, by the same year there will be “no less than 80 percent of bilateral international development assistance through Global Affairs Canada for initiatives designed to achieve … the integration of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.”  (Feminist International Assistance Policy, Improving our Effectiveness, Canada as a Feminist Donor)

All GAC programs have a significant ways to go to achieve these ambitious targets, particularly the focus of 15% of investments on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.  The measure of progress in achieving these targets is the DAC gender equality marker, by which donors mark all activities on a scale from 0 to 2: 2 – gender equality is the principal objective of the activity (15% target), 1 – gender equality is a significant objective, but one among several other objectives (80% target), and 0 – the activity has no gender equality activity (5% target).

How did CSO projects supported by GAC perform against this marker in 2015/16?  The latest published data is for 2015/16 and may serve as a baseline for the five-year Policy targets.  CSOs performed slightly better than a very poor performance by GAC’s bilateral programs.  On the most challenging target of 15% to gender equality focused activities (principal marker 2), all CSOs (both Canadian and Foreign supported by GAC) allocated 2.8% of GAC disbursements for this purpose in 2015/16, against 1.8% for GAC bilateral programs.  But Canadian CSOs alone only allocated 1.7% of their disbursements to this purpose. 

The major role for CSOs in GAC’s humanitarian assistance disbursements affects this performance.  Without humanitarian assistance, in 2015/16 all CSOs allocated 4% to focused gender equality projects and Canadian CSOs, 2.3%.  Canadian CSOs, not including humanitarian assistance disbursements, allocated 85% to activities where gender equality was among the objectives of the project (significant marker 1), over-achieving the Policy target in this area. And these CSOs had the least project disbursements with no gender activities (12.4%). 

Surprisingly, given the importance of organizations advancing women’s rights and gender equality for promoting a feminist international agenda, Canada disbursed a mere $4.55 million in its ODA for these organizations in 2015/16.  None of these disbursements were made through Canadian CSOs’ programs or through bilateral channels.   GAC multilateral programs (support for UN Women), IDRC and the World Bank were the channels of support for women’s rights organizations in that year.

Over the next five year, CSOs and GAC will require dedicated attention to gender equality projects as well as a meaningful integration of gender equality and women’s empowerment in all bilateral and CSO development cooperation.

See GAC Gender Marker, CSO Performance, 2015/16


2.2  Focus on countries where poverty is prevalent


CSO disbursements focused on low income countries and lower middle income countries where vast majority of those living in poverty are found.      GAC disbursements through Canadian CSO (excluding disbursements through foreign international CSOs) have been particularly focused on least developed countries and low-income countries. Data since 2010 however demonstrates that disbursements to these countries has been shrinking as a proportion of total disbursements, from a high of 61% in 2012/13 to 52% in 2015/16. This reduction is the consequence of a growing proportion of CSO disbursements allocated to humanitarian needs and refugees in the Middle East in recent years.

When discounting humanitarian assistance, there is still a small decline of disbursement to low-income and least developed countries for longer term development projects (from 58% in 2010 to 53% in 2015). A consistent average of 32% of Canadian CSO disbursements are allocated to lower middle-income countries, such as Ghana, the Philippines, Viet Nam or countries in Central America, where there is persistent poverty.

See GAC Disbursements through Canadian CSOs by Country Income Group (low income/least developed, lower middle income, upper middle income)

When compared to GAC country bilateral disbursements, CSOs deliver less of their assistance to low income and least developed countries (52% compared to 58% in 2015/16, excluding humanitarian assistance).  But when low income and lower middle income countries are taken together, both avenues for Canadian development assistance deliver the vast majority of their resources to these countries (84% for CSOs, 89% for Geographic in 2015/16, excluding humanitarian assistance).  The vast majority of those considered to be living in poverty live in these countries.

GAC support for low income countries has fallen significantly for its Bilateral programs, from 81% to 58% between 2010 and 2015.  Eight countries were reclassified from low income to lower middle income countries during this period, including Ghana, Viet Nam and Pakistan, all relatively large bilateral programs.  During the same period, 22 countries were reclassified from lower middle income to upper middle income countries.  GAC bilateral development programs are often long term and Canada has had a sustained commitment to a similar set of countries over the past several decades.  The durability of its programs therefore affects the distribution of its bilateral assistance by income category. 

See GAC Country Disbursements for Bilateral Programs by Country Income Groups

Data calculated and posted December 2017.


2.3  Focus on countries in Sub-Saharan Africa


The share of GAC disbursements through CSOs for Sub-Saharan Africa has declined since 2010       The vast majority of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa live in extreme poverty (on income less than US$1.90 a day) and below a minimal poverty line (on income less than US$3.10 a day).  Sub-Saharan Africa’s share peaked at 51% in 2012/13, but has declined marginally from 45% in 2010 to 42% in 2015 (excluding humanitarian assistance).  Much of this decline is accounted for by an increased share for North Africa, the Middle East and Europe, which increased from 6% in 2010 to 11% in 2015 (excluding humanitarian assistance).

See GAC Disbursements through Canadian CSOs by Geographic Region (excluding humanitarian assistance)

Data calculated and posted December 2017. 


3.  Supporting Small and Medium-Sized CSOs in Development Cooperation


AidWatch Canada’s analysis of overall trends in Global Affairs Canada’s support for CSOs (section 2) demonstrates an increasing concentration of disbursements among the top 10 Canadian CSOs receiving funding from all GAC Branches since 2005 (see chart).  At its peak concentration in 2014/15, the top 10 CSOs received 49% of all disbursements to Canadian CSOs from all Branches, and the top 5 received 31%.  In 2015/16, with a growing number of medium sized CSOs receiving funding, this concentration dropped to 40% for the top 10, and 24% for the top five, still a very high level of concentration compared to 2005/16 (32% and 20% respectively).

Funding patterns for Partnerships for Development Innovations Branch reveal a similar concentration (see chart), growing from 35% to 47% between 2005 and 2015 for the top 10 CSO recipients, and from 21% to 32% for the top 5 CSO recipients.


3.1  Impact on Small and Medium Organizations


This concentration of disbursements has affected small and medium sized organizations in particular.  Most of these CSO historically received funding from Partnerships for Development Innovation Branch.  The number of small disbursements in a given year (less than $500,000) in this Branch has fallen from 281 in 2005/06, to 181 in 2010/11, and to a mere 62 in 2015/16, a further drop from 78 in 2014/15.  There was a slight increase in the number of medium sized disbursements ($500,000 to $5 million) from 43 in 2014/15 to 59 in 2015/16.

See Trend in the Number of Contributions to Canadian CSOs by size of the Disbursements, Partnerships for Development Innovations Branch

This long term trend of declining support for small and medium sized organizations in Canada’s development cooperation has been acknowledged by the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, the Liberal Minister for Development Cooperation.  In May 2017, the Minister announced a $100 million five-year pilot initiative targeted at Canadian small and medium organizations (SMOs).  The Fund is intended to support innovative programming related to government priorities set out in its Feminist International Assistance Policy.  It will have a major impact on SMOs (defined by the government as organizations with less than $2 million in total overseas expenditures). 


3.2  AidWatch Canada study on the effectiveness of small and medium sized Canadian CSOs in development cooperation


AidWatch Canada worked with the Inter Council Network (of Provincial and Regional Councils for Development Cooperation) to assess the impact of the funding trends on small and medium-sized Canadian CSOs (SMOs).  This research drew from independent evaluations of SMOs to identify key characteristics of SMOs that make them effective development actors, alongside larger CSOs involved in Canadian development cooperation.

See Small and Medium Size Civil Society Organizations as Development Actors: A review of evidence, A Report prepared for the Inter-Council Network by Brian Tomlinson, AidWatch Canada, April 2016.

This Report made a number of observations about SMOs in development cooperation.  The following points are drawn from its Executive Summary:

  • SMOs raise significant new resources for development cooperation from the Canadian public, which is obscured somewhat by the dominance of the very large CSOs.  SMOs raised 15% of total revenue for overseas activities in 2014, according to data from Revenue Canada on more than 800 Canadian CSOs involved in development activities.  When the four largest CSOs are excluded, this share rises to 25%.   While no data exists, it is commonly understood that many SMOs rely on non-cash contributions in addition to this revenue, perhaps more so than large CSOs.
  • SMOs are more likely to depend on direct donations from Canadians to support their programs. In the sample of 800 CSOs, SMOs account for 30% of all revenue from individual Canadian donations. This revenue source is much more important in sustaining their activities than larger organizations. Private individual donations make up 67% of the revenue for small organizations, 44% for medium sized organizations, but only 22% for large organizations.
  • SMOs are the main avenue to reach Canadians in their communities, with an SMO direct presence in many cities and communities across Canada. More than 85% of large organizations have their headquarters in Central Canada, Ontario or Québec (mainly in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal). While location is not the only determinant for engagement with Canadians, it is notable that close to 40% of small organizations are based in provinces west of Ontario. Similarly a third of medium sized CSOs (33%) are located in these provinces. With a correspondingly smaller share of the Canadian population, Atlantic Canada has fewer organizations from all classes of CSOs, with less than 5% of small organizations based in these provinces.

The review of SMO institutional evaluations suggest ten important characteristics and key competencies of SMOs as development actors:

1.  Focus and specialization       SMOs are highly specialized, perhaps more so than larger organizations involved in different aspects of development cooperation. At least half the evaluations pointed to the importance of specialization in terms of mandate, sector or geographic local.

2.  Access to sector expertise       Many SMOs, through their specialization, have well developed institutional connections in Canada, from which they can draw (often voluntary) contributions of Canadian expertise for programs overseas, where the expertise needed is determined by conditions and counterparts in developing countries.

3.  Transfer of knowledge and capacity development       Close to half the evaluations commented on the increasing roles of SMOs in capacity and knowledge development with counterparts in developing countries. They note the effectiveness of such programs, particularly where the SMO has been able to indigenized capacities through sustained support for long-term partners, sometimes spanning decades of development cooperation.

4.  Public engagement with Canadians       Given their presence in all provinces and regions of Canada, SMOs are uniquely positioned to implement Global Affairs Canada’s policy commitment on engaging Canadians as global citizens.  The recent policy commits GAC to “invest strategically in Canadian CSO public engagement activities in Canada and abroad.”  While among the 20 evaluations there are examples of effective programming in public engagement, an overall observation is that these programs are often marginal to the work of these SMOs. A much more deliberate approach to, and financing for, public engagement is called for if SMOs are to take full advantage of their strategic location and connection with communities across the country.

5.  Reflection of aid effectiveness principles       Consistent with the ODA Accountability Act and Canada’s commitment to international aid effectiveness principles,

SMOs are strongly focused with their programming on priority countries for Canadian aid;

SMOs have wide experience in country ownership through partner-led multi-faceted relationships with their counterparts in developing countries; and

SMOs have improved their approach in ways that strengthen the use of results-based management.

While formal participation in transparency and accountability initiatives can be a challenge for many SMOs with few resources, many are members of Provincial, Regional and National Councils where they must adhere to well elaborated codes of conduct. 

6.  Long term engagement with partners       Canadian CSOs have long standing experience working in partnership, and SMOs are no exception. All 20 evaluations highlight the importance of long-term sustained partnerships for effective development cooperation on the part of SMOs, including the use of flexible core institutional support in the case of one SMO.

7.  Multi-stakeholder engagement and partnerships        Given their size, SMOs are often strongly motivated to foster multi-stakeholder approaches in their development cooperation initiatives, which is an increasingly important goal for Global Affairs Canada and the international community. More than half the evaluations highlighted the contribution of particular multi-stakeholder initiatives in deepening the impact and leveraging modest SMO resources. Equally important is a deliberate approach to developing trust and commitment in these initiatives, built on sustaining of programming and competencies over years.

8.  Sustainability and results       All CSOs are concerned that their initiatives have sustained outcomes and impacts over the longer term, and for SMOs, while perhaps sometimes more challenging, these goals are no less important. The evaluations identify particular SMO strategies for sustainability – multi-stakeholder partnerships, capacity development to reach out to new donors, organizational strengthening through core support, sustained presence with partners and communities, limiting episodic engagements, etc.

9.  Flexible and adaptable to changing local conditions       The evaluations provide some evidence that SMOs may be more nimble than larger organizations, given their size, with decision-making and responsiveness to changing conditions on the ground.

10.  Cost effectiveness and voluntary efforts       Evaluators for the 20 SMOs were consistent in their praise for these organizations as cost effective actors in development cooperation. They point to a “multiplier effect” from volunteer efforts combined with a small amount of financial resources, the importance of focus and access to volunteer expertise, perhaps unavailable to larger organizations. They also highlight the impact of volunteering on the individuals concerned, which not only deepens a global perspective, but has sometimes contributed to life-changing directions involving a future career or volunteer effort in development organizations.

While these characteristics may not always be unique to SMOs, they are important drivers in determining SMO effectiveness and development impact. The scale of an organization often allows for more variation in adapting to the needs of specific partnerships, very much directly engaging people in their communities, in both Canada and overseas.

Data calculated and posted December 2017. 


4.  Supporting an Enabling Environment for CSOs as Development Actors


4.1  Canada’s commitment to supporting an enabling environment for CSOs in developing countries


Despite significant challenges to an enabling environment for CSOs in Canada over the past five years, the Canadian Government has been promoting an enabling environment for CSOs in developing countries.  The recent 2017 Policy for Civil Society Partnerships for International Assistance: A Feminist Approach affirms: 

“Canada recognizes CSOs as independent actors in their own right, acknowledges the importance of supporting an enabling environment for civil society and supports CSOs in achieving greater development effectiveness. … Civil society promotes inclusion, protects human rights and provides a voice to hold governments accountable for delivering public services, defending the rule of law and promoting participation and inclusive decision-making at all levels. … For civil society to thrive, it must operate in a safe and enabling environment that promotes inclusive, transparent and accountable institutions, respects human rights and where the rule of law protects and promotes the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly. … Global Affairs Canada will take leadership in promoting and protecting an enabling environment for civil society …”

Working with like-minded governments and international CSOs such as CIVICUS and the International Centre for Not-For-Profit Law, Global Affairs Canada has chaired the “Working Group on Enabling and Protecting Civil Society,” affiliated with the Community of Democracies.  The Working Group on Enabling and Protecting Civil Society, which is a collaboration of states, civil society and international organizations, engages via diplomatic means at international bodies, such as the United Nations and provides technical assistance activities to prevent the adoption of laws that target civil society.

Global Affairs Canada is also a member of the Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment, which is a multi-stakeholder body (donor governments, developing country governments and CSOs).  The Task Team’s mandate is to promote and monitor the commitments made by all stakeholders at the Fourth High Level Forum in Busan in 2011, and subsequently reaffirmed at the High Level Meeting in Mexico (April 2014) and in Nairobi (November 2016).  AidWatch Canada is also a member of this Task Team and past-Co-Chair for civil society organizations (2012 – 2016).


4.2  Global commitments to an enabling environment for CSOs


Key among these commitments at Busan has been a recognition that CSOs are development actors in their own right, whose roles in development may complement governments, but with their own agency.  Governments committed to creating an enabling environment, consistent with international human rights standards, which will maximize CSOs’ contribution to development. 

The CSO Partnership for Effective Development (CPDE), as well as several international CSOs, have been closely monitoring the enabling environment for CSOs as development actors, and have documented its deterioration in many countries, despite the Busan commitments.  The enabling environment for CSOs have three major components:

  • A legal and regulatory regime that facilitates the formation and operation of CSOs as development actors in their own right;
  • Institutionalize spaces for CSOs to engage effectively in policy dialogue with other development actors, including access to relevant documentation, transparency and accountability; and
  • Modalities of support by aid providers, including funding modalities that strengthen CSOs as development actors and fora for policy engagement.

As a development actor, CSOs themselves committed in Busan to examine their own practices against a set of eight guiding principles, which were globally adopted by CSOs in the Istanbul Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness (2010) and the Siem Reap Framework for the Implementation of the Istanbul Principles (2011).

CPDE has monitored the degree to which governments and aid providers have lived up to their commitments to an enabling environment consistent with international rights, declared in Busan, Mexico and Nairobi.  CPDE’s recent synthesis of country evidence formed a significant contribution to a monitoring process undertaken by the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, the multi-stakeholder body dedicated to ensuring the implementation of the Busan commitments (in which CPDE is the CSO representation).

See CPDE’s GPEDC Indicator Two: Civil Society Operates within an environment that maximizes its engagement in and contribution to development – An Assessment of Evidence (June 2016), compiled by the Working Group on Enabling Environment and the Working Group on CSO Development Effectiveness.

See Making Development Co-operation More Effective: 2016 Progress Report, which is a joint publication between UNDP and OECD under the auspices of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.   This Report compiles data reported by the governments of the 81 low and middle-income countries and territories that participated in the Global Partnership’s second monitoring round.


Based on its 2016 synthesis of evidence, CPDE concluded,

An Enabling Legal and Regulatory Environment for CSOs

  • Significant barriers continue to exist for organizations representing marginalized and vulnerable populations.       The true test of an enabling environment for CSOs, consistent with international rights, is whether the rights of CSOs working in more politically sensitive areas, including those critical of government and those representing views of marginalized and vulnerable populations, are fully respected and protected. Among the most vulnerable are human rights defenders, and women human rights defenders in particular; anti-corruption advocates; environmentalists; ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities; indigenous peoples; LGBTI people; migrants; youth; persons with disabilities; and trade union and land rights activists.
  • A global trend towards shrinking and closing civic space must be reversed.       Despite the commitment in Busan to enable CSOs in their role as development actors in their own right, in increasing numbers of countries, since Busan, the trend has been towards laws, regulations and government practices that restrict the freedoms of association, assembly and expression.
  • There has been a deeply troubling proliferation in the numbers of restrictive laws implemented since 2012.       In 2014, CIVICUS drew attention to 96 significant restrictions on the rights of civil society in just the period between June 2014 and May 2015. These restrictive initiatives are located in countries across the globe, irrespective of region and overall development status.
  • Growing restrictions on access to funding for CSOs has become emblematic of a closing environment in increasing numbers of countries.       Restrictions on access to resources, and particularly foreign funding, have contributed to a profoundly disabling environment for CSOs around the world. Among the countries reviewed by CPDE, close to one-third have significant legal and regulatory restrictions on CSOs’ access to funding.

An Institutionalized Space for Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue

  • While progress in some countries has been welcomed, it is deeply troubling that a significant number of countries still do not hold any multi-stakeholder dialogue.     While CPDE welcomes evidence of some improvement in the number of countries engaging in multi-stakeholder dialogue with CSOs on national development plans, it remains deeply concerning that five years after Busan, more than one-third of the countries examined in CPDE’s review of evidence have little or no experience of multi-stakeholder dialogue.


  • Much more attention is required on improving the quality of dialogue.       Evidence of dialogue in more countries has not necessarily resulted in meaningful engagement with a broad range of civil society actors. Major efforts are still needed to institutionalize such dialogue and improve consultation processes consistent with good dialogue practice, including timeliness, openness and transparency.
  • Right to information still seriously limited in practice in a majority of countries, reducing the effectiveness of multi-stakeholder dialogue.         Access to information is an essential pre-requisite to effective multi-stakeholder dialogue. While most countries now have laws formally granting some level of access to information, in almost all countries examined, there are still substantial practical road-blocks (institutional processes, capacities, failure to implement the Act), which undermine CSO access to the correct, requested information on a timely basis.

Official Development Cooperation Supporting CSOs

  • Providers need to step up bilateral and joint-provider systematic and structured consultations with CSOs on provider policy formulation, not only on program implementation, at the country level.       Where consultations have happened with providers at country level (often perfunctory), the focus is on programmatic implementation of policies already determined at Headquarters level.
  • Providers are not addressing key issues in enabling finance that strengthens CSO development effectiveness       CSO partnership relations are often shaped by donor/CSO policies and relations. CSOs at all levels continue to be affected, inter alia, by long-standing issues in funding modalities such as
    • Diminishing responsiveness to CSO priorities undermining country ownership, bias against local CSOs in favour of INGOs,
    • Need for CSOs to chase changing provider short-term priorities in seeking funding,
    • Providers’ difficulty in funding capacity building work with CSOs, and
    • CSO difficulties in receiving grants for sustaining core operations.


Several international CSOs maintain an ongoing data base and analysis of enabling conditions for civil society:

International Center for Not-for-Profit Law‘s database, its Civic Freedom Monitor, Global Trends in NGO Law which synthesizes key developments relating to the legal and regulatory issues that affect non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and its periodic International Journal for Not-for-Profit Law.

The Civic Space Initiative brings together four global partners, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and the World Movement for Democracy.  Challenging the closing of civic space, the CSI intends to Create spaces for citizens, communities, and civil society organizations to meaningfully engage with government and other power holders on freedoms of assembly, association, and expression.  See here.

The CIVICUS Monitor – Tracking Civic Space creates an interactive world map allows you to access live updates from civil society around the world, track threats to civil society and learn about the ways in which our right to participate is being realised or challenged.  See here.

International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (Canada) is a national coalition that brings together some 43 NGOs, unions, professional associations, faith groups, environmental organizations, human rights and civil liberties advocates, as well as groups representing immigrant and refugee communities in Canada.  The coalition focuses on national and international anti-terrorism legislation, and other national security measures, and their impact on civil liberties, human rights, refugee protection, minority groups, political dissent, governance of charities, international cooperation and humanitarian assistance.  See here.

Voices -Voix (Canada) is a broad Canadian CSO coalition that supports a strong enabling environment for civil society organizations in Canada, robust democratic traditions, and Canadians’ collective and individual rights to debate and dissent. It was founded in 2010 in response to unprecedented federal funding cuts to CSOs and measures that targeted progressive organizations and eroded our democratic foundations.  See here.

 Data calculated and posted December 2017.