Istanbul Five Years After: Evidencing Civil Society Development Effectiveness and Accountability

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Civil society organizations (CSOs) have strived improve their own effectiveness andaccountability as independent development actors since the landmark adoption of the 8 Istanbul Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness in 2010, and the Siem Reap CSO Consensus on the International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness in 2011. These were documented in the publication Journey from Istanbul, which highlighted case stories from 19 countries describing civil society’s continuing efforts to promote and implement the Istanbul Principles through trainings, advocacy, and developing educational materials.

ip-5The CSO Partnership on Development Effectiveness (CPDE) Working Group on
Development Effectiveness (CSO DE WG) has conducted the Global Training of
Trainers on CSO DE in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2013. There were also
numerous workshops at the country and regional levels to introduce and follow
through on the Istanbul Principles and to support civil society organizations develop their roadmaps towards the creation of national CSO accountability charters, where there are none. The Istanbul Principles self-assessment checklist was relaunched into CSO Awareness Check (#CSOCheck)– a new web-based tool to help CSOs around the globe to check their progress in implementing the Istanbul Principles.

It is encouraging to see that all over the world, civil society has made strides in improving their effectiveness and accountability. These, they did, despite the fact that it is becoming increasingly and alarmingly difficult for CSOs to realize their full potentials as development actors. The context with which CSOs find themselves in is one, if not the greatest challenge, that prevents CSOs from fully seeing through the Istanbul Principles. We see that despite the rhetoric on multi-stakeholder partnerships, spaces and opportunities for dialogue and engagement are actually closing at the global, regional, and national levels. Laws that restrict CSOs activities are being put in place, negatively impacting development workers in both South and North especially for those working on human rights, environmental rights, and gender equality. Fundamental civil liberties and human rights are severely under threat, if not under outright attack. Five years since Istanbul and Siem Reap, there is a need for an assessment of the actual state of CSO Development Effectiveness and Accountability in order to scale up previous initiatives and identify action points to address challenges.

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