Assessing Progress for a CSO Enabling Environment: Guiding questions to accompany the CPDE Framework

The CPDE has developed a Framework for assessing progress in the enabling environment for civil society organizations (attached in an annex).  The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC) will be monitoring progress since Busan on a number of indicators relating to Busan commitments, including Indicator Two on the enabling environment for CSOs.

In September 2013, the CPDE Working Group on Enabling Environment will be producing a Synthesis of Evidence to contribute to the OECD managed Global Partnership monitoring report for the 2014 Ministerial meeting of the Global Partnership.  To facilitate the collection of evidence from CPDE member processes at the country level over the next two months, the Working Group has prepared this basic questionnaire to guide your review of the three areas for the Framework.

This exercise is focused on gathering recent concrete evidence on enabling or disabling conditions for CSOs since the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2011.  When using this questionnaire, please also refer to the relevant section of the Framework and be specific in terms of issues and developments in your country.  The questions are intended to guide, but if there is other information relevant to the questions in the Framework, don’t hesitate to provide additional information.  Attention to gender disaggregated information, where available, is highly appreciated and we encourage you to seek this information actively.  Equally, please ensure to include in your assessment of CSOs’ conditions, the situation of women’s rights organizations and that of human - and women’s rights defenders.

If there are documents that already present evidence, please send electronic links or the document itself.

 

Guiding Questions

 

A.  Background

 

A1.  Identify the country and/or regional processes through which this evidence has been collected?  Who has been involved?  Are these processes representative of the range of CSOs working in your country?

 

 A2.  E-mail contact for follow-up:

 

B.  Area One: Universally accepted human rights and freedoms affecting CSOs

 

B1.  In the past two years, have there been significant and persistent violations to the right to freedom of association, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and/or to the right to freedom of expression, in your country through government harassment or intimidation?   Yes / No  _________

If yes, please elaborate with specific examples, including the nature of these violations, and/or attach documentation (Note that questions 2 to 4 below ask about restrictions for these rights arising from the implementation of laws and regulations.):

B2. In the past two years, have there been changes with respect to laws and regulations for CSO registration, either reform of the laws and/or in the implementation of existing laws that affect the operations of CSOs, free of excessive or arbitrary political interference?

Yes / No  _________

If yes, please elaborate with specific examples, including the nature of these changes and the resulting impacts on CSOs (if available attach documentation):

 

 

B3.  Are there recent changes in legal or political barriers that hinder the ability of CSOs to assemble and/or openly express their opinions, particularly on matters critical of government policies?

Yes / No  _________

If yes, please elaborate with specific examples, including the nature of these changes and the resulting impacts on CSOs (if available attach documentation):

 

 

B4.  Are there recent changes to the legal or political conditions to access resources – i.e. seek, secure and use resources, including foreign resources, for CSOs?       Yes / No  _________

If yes, please elaborate with specific examples, including the nature of these changes and the resulting impacts on CSOs (if available attach documentation):

 

 

B5.   Are there recent examples of leaders or members of particularly vulnerable CSOs facing discrimination, harassment, arbitrary arrest or extra-judicial killing? (Examples of such groups might include trade unions, women’s rights organizations, organizations of indigenous peoples, LGBT organizations, but also persons such as those working for the protection of human rights, including women’s human rights)

Yes / No  ________

If yes, please elaborate with specific examples, including the nature of the attacks and the resulting impacts on CSOs and associated individuals/activists (if available attach documentation):

 

 

C.  Area Two: Policy Influencing

 

C1.  Are there inclusive and accessible institutionalized processes for policy engagement with government?  Are marginalized groups included?  Is CSOs’ input taken into account in the policy outcomes?  Do NGOs/CSOs have access to relevant government information?  Have there been changes in systematic policy engagement with government in the past two years?  Yes / No ________

Please describe current processes for policy engagement at the country or regional levels?  If recent changes, please elaborate with specific examples, including the resulting impacts on CSOs (if available attach documentation):

 

 

D.  Area Three: Official Donor – CSO Relationships

 

D1.  Are donor CSO funding mechanisms responsive to the programmatic priorities of CSOs?  Are donor CSO funding mechanisms transparent and disbursed impartially?  Have there been any changes in funding mechanisms in the past two years affecting the capacities of CSOs to operate and carry out their mandates?  Yes / No  _________

If there have been recent changes, please elaborate with specific examples, including the resulting impacts on CSOs (attach documentation if available):

 

 

D2.  Are donors creating inclusive processes for CSO policy engagement on donor strategies at all levels (headquarters, within partner countries)?  Have there been changes in these consultative processes in the past two years? Yes / No  _________

If there have been recent changes, please elaborate with specific examples, including the resulting impacts on CSOs (attach documentation if available):

 

 

E. Other Areas

 

E1.  Are there any other changes in the enabling environment for CSOs in your country that you think are relevant to the Global Partnership’s Busan commitments to provide an enabling environment for CSOs?  If so, please elaborate with specific examples (attach documentation if available).

 

 

Your attention to providing evidence for the CPDE monitoring of enabling conditions for CSOs is most appreciated!

 

Please send all evidence, including answers to this questionnaire, to

                Brian Tomlinson:  brian.t.tomlinson@gmail.com

 

Thanks and best wishes!

 

Henri Valot and Vitalice Meja,

Co-Chairs, CPDE Working Group on Enabling Conditions

 

 

ANNEX

A Monitoring Framework for Assessing Progress for a CSO Enabling Environment

CPDE Working Group on CSO Enabling Environment

 

  1. A.      Introduction

 

The Busan commitments

 

The Busan Partnership is committed to “enable CSOs to exercise their roles as independent development actors, with a particular focus on an enabling environment, consistent with agreed international rights, that maximises the contributions of CSOs to development.” [§22]  In addition, all development actors committed to “deepen, extend and operationalise the democratic ownership of development policies and processes.” [§12(a)]

 

The Global Partnership Monitoring Framework

 

The Global Partnership (GPEDC) has developed a Monitoring Framework to assess progress for both of these commitments.  In relation to a CSO enabling environment (Indicator 2 in the Monitoring Framework), the GPEDC will be focusing on two dimensions: the “legal and regulatory framework for civil society operations” and “selected elements of the governance / political environment that have a direct bearing on CSO activity.”  The GPEDC Monitoring Framework intends to draw data from the CIVICUS Enabling Environment Index (EEI), which is currently under construction with a draft EEI now open for consultation.[1]

 

CIVICUS and the Civil Society Platform on Development Effectiveness (CPDE)’s Working Group on Enabling Environment (WG-EE) have informed the OECD Secretariat that, in addition to the EEI, a number of members of the Working Group are developing evidence and case studies to inform assessment of progress and good practice in advancing an enabling environment for CSOs.[2]

 

It is the intent of the CPDE WG-EE to synthesize this evidence and submit it to the OECD and the GPEDC Ministerial, tentatively planned for November 2013.[3]  The purpose of the following CPDE Monitoring Framework is to provide minimum areas of focus for WG-EE members’ individual efforts in gathering evidence on CSO enabling conditions.

 

 

Gathering the evidence

 

The CIVICUS EEI brings together a large number of existing indicators that CIVICUS considers relevant to enabling civil society.[4]  However, the draft EEI acknowledges that there are gaps in the country coverage for some indicators, issues related to the methodologies of indicators, and key areas where no available indicators exist.  Two areas where existing indicators and the EEI coverage is mixed are: 1) the legal and regulatory framework for CSOs; and 2) spaces for CSO policy influencing, both of which are essential to the WG-EE and the GPEDC Monitoring of progress for Indicator 2.

 

The intent of this WG-EE framework is to propose some essential questions within critical areas for monitoring and gathering evidence.  It is expected and encouraged that WG-EE members will go beyond these areas and questions as appropriate to the purposes and scope of their own initiatives.

 

Evidence generated by questions on enabling conditions for CSOs is very country context-specific.  Some questions are factual in nature, but many others require an assessment by the respondents, based on both experience and understanding of country situations for CSOs as a whole. Respondents, as individuals or as outcomes of workshop processes, should apply their perceptions of the realities for enabling conditions in their country in answering the questions.

 

WG-EE synthesis of evidence

 

Members of the CPDE are encouraged to use the CPDE Framework below in country-level processes to gather evidence from a broad array of CSOs and other development actors in their country. The CPDE WG-EE will collate these contributions, along with existing narrative and selected EEI indicators, for a synthesis of evidence and its implications for assessing progress for Indicator 2.  The focus of this Framework on Enabling Environment is external conditions affecting CSOs; the CPDE Working Group on CSO Development Effectiveness will be monitoring CSO progress in advancing their development effectiveness (against a commitment to the Istanbul Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness).  It is acknowledged that the latter may sometimes affect external enabling conditions, for example, influencing donor willingness to provide financing.

 

The first assessment will be developed by the WG-EE in July 2013 as a contribution to the first monitoring report by the OECD due to be released in September 2013 for the November GPEDC Ministerial meeting..  In undertaking this immediate synthesis, the WG-EE recognizes that many country processes and specific initiatives by WG-EE members are being launched in the coming months.  While it is important to maximize available evidence for a representative range of countries by the end of June 2013, the WG-EE is putting forward this Framework as a basis for a substantial process of gathering evidence over the next year.

 

  1. B.      A CPDE Framework for Assessing Progress on CSO Enabling Environment

 

The CPDE Framework focuses on three core areas, and within each area addresses essential dimensions of the CSO enabling environment:

Area One: Universally accepted human rights and freedoms affecting CSOs

                                Dimension One: Recognition of rights and freedoms affecting CSOs.

Dimension Two: The legal and regulatory environment, implementing rights and freedoms affecting CSOs.

                                Dimension Three: Rights of specific groups

Area Two: Policy Influencing

                                Dimension One: Spaces for dialogue and policy influencing

                                Dimension Two: Access to information

Area Three: Donor – CSO relationships

 

All the questions in this document are intended to gather evidence from on-the-ground assessments and existing indices and indicators that are being used or being developed by the members of the CPDE Working Group in the coming months, including but not limited to the CIVICUS EEI, ACT Alliance/CIDSE country case studies, the ITUC country monitoring of trade union rights, Women’s Human Rights Defenders Network, Reality of Aid Africa country mapping, ICNL Legal Monitor, and the Civic Space Initiative (CIVICUS, Article 19, World Movement for Democracies and ICNL).

 

Area One:  Universally accepted human rights and freedoms affecting CSOs

 

The Busan Partnership affirms CSOs as independent development actors in their own right.  It substantially links an enabling environment for CSOs to governments fulfilling their obligations to international human rights.

 

Dimension One:  Recognition of rights and freedoms affecting CSOs

Dimension One asks whether a state recognizes at the national level three universally recognized human rights and freedoms affecting CSOs.  As a reflection of this recognition, the questions therefore examine whether a state recognizes these rights and freedoms in the constitution and in the basic laws, and whether there are significant violations of these rights.

  • Is the right to freedom of association protected in the constitution and basic laws of your country?
  • Is the right to freedom to peacefully assembly protected in the constitution and basic laws of your country?
  • Is the right to freedom of expression protected in the constitution and basic laws of your country?
  • Are there significant and/or severe restrictions on the exercise of one or more of these rights through government intimidation, intrusion, harassment or threats? (Please Note:  Dimension Two below will address particular restrictions governing the exercise of these rights based on the implementation of CSO laws and regulations.)

 

Dimension Two: The legal and regulatory environment, implementing rights and freedoms affecting CSOs[5]

 

Dimension Two explores the legal and regulatory environment governing CSOs’ exercise of the human rights and freedoms addressed in Dimension One.

 

  1. 1.     Entry: CSO formation and registration
  • Is there an enabling law on CSO registration, and in practice are CSOs able to easily register?

 

Definition:      “Enabling law” includes voluntary registration allowed for any legal purpose; requiring a small number of founders and/or small amount of assets; based on reasonable, transparent, objective criteria; and providing avenues for appeal.

 

  • Are the processes/regulations for formation and registration enabling for civil society organizations?

 

Definition:      “Enabling processes/regulations” includes easy access for all irrespective of location, simple procedure without undue administrative burdens; nominal or affordable fees; timely decision; registration in perpetuity.

 

  1. 2.     CSO Operations: Free from interference
  • Can CSOs, at the time of and after registration, freely choose where, with whom and with what mandate to work?
  • Are CSOs free to operate, in law and in practice, without excessive administrative burdens and/or government interference (harassment)?
  • Is there interference in CSO operations on the part of the state and other actors for political or arbitrary reasons?  Is there legal recourse against such harassment?

 

Definitions:    “CSO Operations” – The capacities to govern, implement and assess activities on the part of the CSO, consistent with its mandate and the roles of CSOs as actors in support of public goods.

 

“Excessive” – Interferes with CSO’s capacity to act independently in carrying out its mandate.

 

  1. 3.     CSO expression of views and advocacy
  • Are there legal or political barriers that hinder a CSO’s ability to openly express its opinions, particularly on matters critical of government policies?  (Barriers may also include CSO self-censorship of views.)
  • Are there legal or political barriers that hinder a CSO’s ability to engage in public policy activity and/or advocacy?
  1. 4.     Access to resources
  • Are there legal, policy or political barriers to access – i.e. to seek, secure and use - resources, including foreign resources, for CSOs?
  • Are there legal or policy incentives to promote local resource mobilization and financial sustainability among CSOs?

 

  1. 5.     Rights to assembly peacefully
  • Are there legal or political barriers to the right to peaceful assembly?
  • Can groups who gather openly criticize the government through peaceful protests or other forms of demonstrations?
  • Are there restrictions to assemble and make claims on government, including government use of harassment, arbitrary arrest or use of excessive force?

 

Dimension Three: Rights of specific groups

 

This dimension focuses on evidence of discrimination in the application of laws, regulations and policies for particular groups that may advocate for policy change or represent marginalized and vulnerable populations.  Important factors also include fair administration of the laws and regulations, equal access to due process and the ability to seek redress.

  • Are there CSOs representing particular groups that receive less favorable treatment under the legal and regulatory environment (Dimension Two) due to their specific mandate or activities? (Examples of such groups might include trade unions, women’s rights organizations, human rights organizations, organizations of indigenous peoples, LGBT organizations etc.)
    • Are there recent examples of leaders and/or members of vulnerable organizations facing discrimination, harassment, arbitrary arrest or extra-judicial killing?

 

Area Two: Policy influencing

 

The ability of CSOs to engage with governments on policy concerns through dialogue and advocacy is an essential area for consideration of CSO enabling conditions.  The degree to which there are institutionalized spaces for policy dialogue and fair and inclusive processes for government/CSO consultations are critical ingredients of democratic ownership of public policy.  Considerations of an enabling environment must not only take account of opportunities/processes for engagement, but also the resulting impacts on public policy.

 

Dimension One: Spaces for dialogue and policy influencing

 

  • Does government establish inclusive and accessible processes for policy engagement at all levels (local, regional, national)?  Are marginalized groups included (e.g. women’s rights organizations, indigenous groups)? Are such processes available for all kinds of policies?
  • Are there inclusive institutionalized opportunities for CSOs to participate in policy- and decision-making processes?
  • Are CSOs involved in design, implementation and monitoring of national development plans and policies?
  • Is CSO input taken into account in the policy outcomes? Are there fully accessible accountability mechanisms for feedback and policy assessment, ensuring that governments consider CSO input?
    • Are there initiatives to address capacity needs of all stakeholders to fully and effectively participate in policy dialogue? (In particular, governments and CSOs.)

 

Definitions:    “Established processes” for policy engagement includes periodic consultation mechanisms, episodic government/civil society dialogue processes, and processes for government/community engagement.

 

“Institutionalized opportunities” includes permanent structured mechanisms for policy dialogue, which meet regularly and have a defined mandate to inform the development, implementation and assessment of government policies.

 

Dimension Two: Access to information

 

Governments must put into practice principles and laws governing the full transparency and accountability for government priorities, strategies, plans and actions.

  • Do CSOs have a right to access to relevant government information, by law and in practice?
  • Is the process of obtaining relevant government information simple, timely, transparent and based on established procedures?

 

Area Three: Donor – CSO relationships

 

In many countries, donor policies and financing requirements affect CSOs’ roles as effective, independent development actors.  Donors should establish transparent and consistent policies that define the place and roles of CSOs in donor strategic frameworks and plans, including country-level program implementation plans.  Financing modalities should enable CSOs to implement their own mandates and priorities and be relevant to a diversity of CSOs, respecting their different roles, capacities, constituencies and approaches.

 

  • Are CSO funding mechanisms responsive to the programmatic priorities of CSOs?
  • Are CSO funding mechanisms reliable, transparent, easy to understand, and disbursed impartially?
  • Are there initiatives by donors for facilitating diversification of CSOs’ income sources?
  • Are donors creating inclusive processes for CSO policy engagement on donor strategies at all levels (headquarters, within partner countries)?

 

 



[1]  The GPEDC Monitoring Framework is available at http://www.effectivecooperation.org/files/2013%20busan%20global%20monitoring%20guidance.pdf.  The draft CIVICUS EEI and commentary on issues in developing an EEI is available at http://socs.civicus.org/?p=4297.

[2]  These include the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), the faith-based coalitions, ACT Alliance and CIDSE, a joint project of CIVICUS and the ICNL, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Reality of Aid Network, and various country level CSO platforms in the CPDE.

[3]  The multi-stakeholder Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment is also intending to contribute to the monitoring process.

[4]  The CPDE uses the Open Forum definition of civil society organizations as all non-market and non-state organizations in which people organize themselves to purse shared interests in the public domain.  They cover a wide range of organizations that include membership-based CSOs, cause-based CSOs and service-oriented CSOs.  Examples include community-based organizations, village associations, environmental groups, women’s rights groups, farmers associations, faith-based organizations, trade unions, organizations representing the rights of disabled peoples, cooperatives, professional associations, chambers of commerce, independent research institutes, and not-for-profit media.

[5] The framework of analysis for this section is drawn from the Defending Civil Society Report (2d Ed. June 2012), co-authored by International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) & World Movement for Democracy Secretariat at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).