SDDirect uses the term civil society for a wide range of collective actions around common goals and interests. In their social, economic and political actions, people often choose to be represented by civil society organisations (CSOs). There are many categories of CSOs – for example, trade unions, media organisations, academic institutions, faith-based organisations, community-based organisations and women’s organisations. The most usual interpretation of the term CSO is non-governmental organisation (NGO), either national (NNGO) or international (INGO).
Major changes underway in the aid architecture, following the Rome and Paris Declarations, mean that a number of donors are now re-examining their strategies for interacting with CSOs and supporting them in mobilising citizens’ participation in the state decision-making that affects them. Southern CSOs have become increasingly significant players in development, engaged in a range of issues, including political participation and monitoring of state action.
Civil society organisations provide a useful, systematic channel for reaching members of a society and promoting their participation. Participation makes an essential contribution to people’s feelings of involvement and ownership and contributes to more representative decision-making and improved impacts. CSOs are a channel for reaching groups that may be excluded or overlooked when prioritising allocation of society’s resources. CSOs provide alternative forums for people to express their views, concerns and sense of priorities, as well as enabling individuals to act with like-minded others for greater effect.
SDDirect offers a range of support to strengthen civil society organisations and their ability to engage effectively with the state. We also work with developing country governments to promote awareness of the importance of civil society in strengthening democratic processes and in strengthening government capacity to listen and respond to civil society voices.