Giving Compass' Take:

• Civil society organizations can help during the COVID-19 pandemic because they play a significant role in global development progress.  

• How can donors help international civil society organizations thrive so that they can provide the necessary resources to vulnerable communities? 

• Here are three reasons civil society institutions are essential. 

If anyone needs a crash course in the critical role played by civil society organizations, COVID-19 is providing it—from increased need for the services they provide to those less fortunate, to the strain they are experiencing from lack of supplies and the need to “social distance,” to government having to act too quickly without civil society input.

But beyond the current crisis, civil society is an essential building block of development and national cohesion. In a country blessed with peace and stability, civil society fills the space untouched by government and the private sector. In a fragile and conflict-ridden country, it plays an even more important role of providing services normally the responsibility of the state and business and can lay the foundation for reconciliation.

Civil society comprises organizations that are not associated with government—including schools and universities, advocacy groups, professional associations, churches, and cultural institutions (business sometimes is covered by the term civil society and sometimes not). Civil society organizations play multiple roles. They are an important source of information for both citizens and government.

To provide a start to developing that strategy, the Accountability and Country Ownership Working Group of MFAN released an outline identifying the various roles played by civil society and four basic principles to guide USAID’s engagement with civil society. They include:

  1. Engage a diverse set of civil society organizations in setting USAID priorities. 
  2. Work to strengthen and protect the enabling environment for civil society.
  3. Invest in the capabilities of civil society.
  4. Engage with a broad range and diverse set of civil society actors.

Read the full article about civil society organizations by George Ingram at Brookings.