Access to Resources

Civil society organizations (CSOs) can be defined to include all non-market and non-state organizations outside of the family in which people organize themselves to pursue shared interests in the public domain. Examples include community-based organizations and village associations, environmental groups, women’s rights groups, farmers’ associations, faith-based organizations, labor unions, co-operatives, professional associations, chambers of commerce, independent research institutes and the not-for-profit media.[1] 

The ‘Busan Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation’ recognized CSOs as “independent development actors”: “Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a vital role in enabling people to advocate for their rights, in promoting rights‐based approaches, in shaping development policies and partnerships, and in overseeing their implementation.” The UN also define civil society as the “third sector” of society, along with government and business. It comprises civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations. [2] They make a difference and have a significant role to play in international development. They provide development services, and humanitarian relief, are innovative in service delivery, build local capacity and advocate with and for the poor the rights and freedoms of all citizens.

For civil society organizations to implement their mandate, they require resources including but not limited to financing, capacity building, and human capital and a conducive environment. Most if not all, CSOs are self-sustaining to an extent. However, acting alone, their impact is limited in scope, scale and sustainability therefore they require assistance in various aspects from both National and International benefactors.  This then becomes the foundation of the right of association in the 1948 United Nation Declaration on Human Rights and by extension the right to access resources.  [3]

The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, Art. 13 stipulates that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to solicit, receive and   utilize resources for the express purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means. Many of the national level policies also recognizes the importance of access to resources and some have made an extra-step of including in their constitutions that they will undertake to provide a conducive environment for CSOs to fulfil their mandate.

There have been growing restrictions on civil society’s access to resources which often target foreign funding. Such restrictions may include outright prohibitions to access funding, requiring CSOs to obtain government approvals prior to receiving funding, requiring transfer of funds to a centralized government fund, banning or restricting foreign funding; even if international laws don’t make any distinction between funding and resources whether domestic or foreign

This Initiate seeks to address by building a shared understanding of the concept of right to receive donor assistance among civil society groups and government and developing a common language that could be used to improve advocacy efforts to protect right to access resources.

[1] NGOs and CSOs: a note on terminology: http://www.cn.undp.org/content/dam/china/docs/Publications/UNDP-CH03%20Annexes.pdf

[2] Civil Society: http://www.un.org/en/sections/resources/civil-society/index.html

[3] The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 at the Palais de Chaillot, Paris.

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