One Year On: COVID-19 has made CSOs’ effectiveness harder on many fronts

The CPDE International Civil Society Organisations (ICSOs) sector has released its study One Year On: COVID-19 has made CSOs’ effectiveness harder on many fronts: A CPDE study on the impacts of the pandemic.

The report offers a snapshot from the point of view primarily of ICSOs of the global pandemic’s far-reaching effects, one year on, on this constituency’s ability to play its part, seen through the lens of the development effectiveness agenda (View the full report and a presentation of highlights).

In conducting the research, the sector aimed to highlight the main impacts on CSOs’ ability to operate effectively in order to help the INGO constituency group, and the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) as a whole, pinpoint next steps for more in-depth research and/or action to support CSOs in implementing their development effectiveness principles more fully in these most challenging of times.

It outlines the main impacts identified by study participants, including the challenges caused by an increasingly hostile environment for CSOs to operate in and serious funding constraints for all, but particularly for national CSOs. It then examines in more detail how the pandemic and responses to it have affected ICSOs’ ability to implement key areas guiding the effectiveness of their operations.

This exposes some major difficulties created by the pandemic for CSOs’ capacities to promote core areas, such as human rights and social justice and women and girls’ empowerment, and to meet their commitments in practice to people’s empowerment, democratic ownership and participation and pursuing equitable partnerships with national and local CSO partners. It also presents some positive developments, notably an increased appreciation for CSOs and the causes they espouse and multiple opportunities through digitalisation. It examines these against the backdrop of major trends in international development that were either heightened during the pandemic or emerged in the midst of it.

This report also builds on a number of previous studies, namely: “Civil Society Initiatives on Covid-19,” a report, which details the results of a survey undertaken by CPDE just a few weeks into the pandemic to better understand how the pandemic was affecting CSOs at that time; a study from 2016, a self-assessment of the level of support from the INGO community for the development effectiveness agenda, “How Effective are International Non-Governmental Organisations? A study of INGO support of the development effectiveness agenda” (hereafter, ‘the CPDE ICSO 2016 study’); and a follow-up working paper from 2019, “Accelerating the Implementation of the Istanbul Principles by INGOs in a Changing Development Landscape” (hereafter, ‘the CPDE ICSO 2019 study’), which looked at the areas of development effectiveness that have been most challenging for INGOs to implement, and contextualised these against major trends affecting INGOs at that time. #

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