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Development Account Projects

Strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations to promote the implementation of ECOSOC resolutions and the UN agenda at the country level 

Background:

The growth of civil society organizations (CSO) worldwide and the diversity of these organizations at the national, regional and international levels prompted the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to review their role in addressing development challenges, and recognize the intrinsic value of their knowledge, expertise and capacity to contribute substantively to the work of the United Nations and the implementation of the UN development agenda in countries. ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 reaffirmed the need for "governing bodies of the relevant organizations, bodies and specialized agencies of the United Nations system to examine the principles and practices relating to their consultations with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and to take action, as appropriate, to promote coherence in the light of the provisions of the present resolution." The resolution specifically calls for a proactive role by the Secretariat to ensure that there is coordination and coherence within the UN system in working with NGOs. ECOSOC Decision 2002/225 emphasizes "the importance of non-governmental organizations worldwide in achieving a just, balanced, effective and genuine involvement from all regions of the world, and in their evolving relationship with the United Nations," reaffirming the importance of "NGO capacity-building" to enable them to "take part in United Nations work" and "disseminate the work of the Council," among others.

There is an inherent recognition within the UN system that participation of civil society organizations in UN-led assistance promotes an inclusive process, largely resulting in a positive impact on development effectiveness on the ground. Millennium Development Goal 8 on partnership was envisioned as a necessary and core element to reinforce respective responsibilities and commitments made by governments, donors and international agencies, and ensure mutual accountability. However, relationships with civil society organizations (CSOs) have been not been easy to categorize since organizations and their roles are as disparate as they are widespread, making it difficult to capture and capitalize on the gains in a systematic and coherent manner. As a result, a concerted effort is required to work with and build the capacity of civil society organizations which are increasingly viewed as instrumental and influential partners to help the UN to deliver results on the internationally agreed goals. A recent assessment undertaken by the National Civil Society Advisory Committees (NCSACs) to United Nations Country Teams has helped to highlight the need for a meaningful policy dialogue between civil society and the UN system. The importance of the dialogue process is emphasized particularly in view of the rights-based approach that CSOs take in mobilizing public support, helping to analyze and monitor development activities on the ground, and by providing critical feedback from the front lines of development.

The project will build on the lessons learned from long-standing interaction with NGOs with a wide spectrum of UN agencies, and help to address areas of weakness, gaps in knowledge and information and understanding of the UN's normative work. The recent UNCT report identified mutual lack of understanding, "clarity, capacity and commitment on both sides" which continues to prevent effective interaction and work between the UN and CSOs. Examples of lessons learned from engagement with CSOs at the country level include, among others, UNDP's work in strengthening the organizational and advocacy capacity of national NGO Platforms and facilitating their participation in regional and global debates on issues related to trade, food security and climate change, among others. Likewise, ILO has long-standing experience in supporting established civil society organizations, trade unions and others at the country level by building their capacity for advocacy, development and human rights through training and advisory services. Yet another example is UNICEF's partnership strategy for implementing the "World Fit for Children" which includes working with networks of non-governmental organizations at the global, regional and national levels (spanning 190 countries), and range from international and national NGOs to village water committees.

DESA will execute the project by coordinating closely with UNDP and the Millennium Campaign. Through this initiative, UN system agencies, CSOs and member states will be provided access to a newly-designed CSO portal entitled "CSO Net – the ECOSOC Civil Society Network" developed by DESA. This portal, to be launched shortly, will enable all users to share and promote best practices in the field of economic and social development, as well for the purpose of establishing collaborative development solutions and partnerships among the users. As the creator of the portal, DESA will be responsible for maintaining, providing oversight to, and monitoring the site. UN DOCO will ensure coordination among the UN system agencies in New York, while UNDP will provide facilities and access to staff at the country level.

Objective:

To strengthen the capacity of Civil Society Organizations (CSO) in selected countries to promote the implementation of General Assembly and ECOSOC resolutions on internationally agreed development goals (IADGs), including the MDGs, notably as far as gender equality, human rights and climate change are concerned, in partnership with the UN development system at country, regional and global levels.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Improved capacity of CSOs to contribute consistently and coherently to national policies and strategies by drawing attention to internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs, with an emphasis on gender equality, human rights and climate change, in partnership with the UN development system.
  • Improved capacity of CSOs to exchange information and improve communication and feedback mechanism among themselves and with the UN development system through the creation of networks and associations nationally and regionally

Implementation status:

In Progress.