CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

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Posted by civilsocietyindex on June 28, 2011

In line with the revamp of the CICIVUS website, the CSIblog has been moved to the new CIVICUS domain and will now be found here:

Please visit us at our new home to keep up with what’s happening with theCSI!!

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From project implementation to influencing policies: Challenges of civil society in Uruguay

Posted by civilsocietyindex on February 16, 2011

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is pleased to announce the publication of the Civil Society Index (CSI) Uruguay Analytical Country Report, a third such report from the Institute for Communication and Development (ICD), the CSI implementing partner in Uruguay.

The three country reports completed by ICD present an exciting opportunity for Uruguay’s civil society to analyse and compare the changes they have gone through since the first assessment was done ten years ago. Although the CSI project has continually updated its methodology over its three phases, it is still possible to draw some comparisons from the different reports.


The 2010 diamond presents a view of Uruguayan civil society that has medium-level development, which operates in a highly favorable environment with a relatively high level of organisation, and whose actions are seen to have high impact. The areas that are of most concern are in people’s participation, where levels are low in Uruguay, and the  practice and promotion of values dimension, which shows that civil society in Uruguay could do more to model and practice strong values.

 In comparison to 2005, the report finds there has been an improvement in the external environment due to advances in the socio-political, socio-economic and socio-cultural context as a result of political change. There has also been an improvement in the impact that CSOs in Uruguay are experiencing, which can be seen to link to the improvement in the environment in which the CSOs operate. 


Some recommendations that have been highlighted in the report on how to strengthen the weaker areas include: promoting participation and voluntary work, including through developing recognition and information sharing initiatives; building regional exchange networks, to address disconnects between the capital and CSOs in remote regions; and lobbying for amendment to the legal framework to address bureaucratic and slow procedures for legal registration.

 The Civil Society Index (CSI) was implemented in Uruguay by the Institute for Communication and Development (ICD) in collaboration with the CIVICUS CSI team.

 Click here for the full report.

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Guinea – Call for reform in the army to ensure democracy

Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 28, 2010

– Written by Anaelle Planckaert, CSI Communications and Outreach Intern –

The first anniversary of the killing of over 150 unarmed prodemocracy demonstrators and the rapes of over 100 women takes place in a very heated electoral climate. Almost two years after the military coup in December 2008, Guinea is halfway through a landmark presidential poll raising hopes to restore the civilian rule in the country. The first round of voting on June 24 was seen as the country’s first democratic vote after 24 years under the rule of autocratic President Lansana Conte. The second round, planned at first on 19 September, has now been postponed to 10 October, raising heightened tensions that already made one victim.

According to Human Rights Watch, one year after the notorious massacre and widespread sexual violence by Guinea security forces in Conakry, “none of those responsible for the killings has been brought to trial”. International watchdog groups claim the absolute need to put the dismantling of this culture of impunity and the reform of the army as a top priority for the next Guinean president.

As stressed by Human Right Watch Senior West Africa Researcher, Corinne Dufka, “The Guinean military has a history of engaging in very serious human rights abuses and common crime committed against ordinary Guineans.  The new government, once elected, must begin by addressing these very serious patterns of abuses and the impunity that they enjoy by holding accountable those responsible for the 2009 violence.”

[Photo: AFP/Getty Images]

The success of a future democratic government highly depends on a complete reform of Guinea’s undisciplined military forces. A report issued earlier this month by the International Crisis Group, Guinea: Reforming the Army, calls for a civilian-led reform towards reduced military numbers and greater financial transparency. However the success of such a reform also depends on the cooperation from senior military officials.

Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group West Africa Project Director, emphasizes the risk that “the armed forces will want to impose their own agenda on the reform process”. It is consequently crucial that the international community strives to ensure that the elections take place without any further delay, but also remain engaged afterwards to guarantee stability in Guinea and West Africa. Such engagement will not only require strong political will, but also long-term donor commitment and resources.

– Anaelle Planckaert –

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CIVICUS World Assembly 2010: Looking back

Posted by civilsocietyindex on August 27, 2010

With a clear three days of sunlight – and at least one night of sleep – between ourselves and the closing ceremony of the CIVICUS World Assembly, the Civil Society Index team here at CIVICUS can look back and reflect on some of the key lessons and key trends. So what do we know now that we didn’t on 19 August 2010, the day before the World Assembly started?

  • The crises are multiple and complex, but so are the solutions. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for economic injustice, climate injustice and development ineffectiveness. It’s no longer enough to call out for a voice, to lament the lack of civil society participation. Citizens and the organizations through which they mobilize have a responsibility to step up to the plate at this time of crisis and do more than criticize. Their voice is a valuable one, but it’s also one which decision-makers in governments, IGOs and IFIs need if they are to be empowered to make change. Civic action, as Kumi Naidoo put it, also gives legitimacy to those within the system who want to bring about change. Across the board and in different and complex ways, civil society needs to think not just about participation, but about how participation can bring about solutions.
  • Civil society space is expanding in some respects, but contracting in other key areas. In some respects, the space in which citizens are able to organize and act has never been greater. The space for associational life in community groups and religious, cultural and sporting organizations has rarely been this strong. But at the same time, human rights NGOs and those who would challenge governments directly are experiencing forms of repression and tightening legislation. The World Assembly bore testimony to this much. But what next? How can the different stakeholders – government, private sector and civil society – enhance the quality of dialogue and engagement, and begin to value each other’s contribution to making the world a better place?
  • Safe, organic spaces for civic reflection, exchange and action need to be supported and leveraged where they do exist. What we saw in the second CSI workshop, on cross-border initiatives, was evidence of healthy spaces for reflection, planning and action. In the case of the Turkey-Armenia Cross Border Initiative and the Latin America regional research initiative, we saw examples of reconciliation, of cooperation and of the generation of social capital. Given the perceived assault on civil society space, renewed effort also needs to be given by the CIVICUS alliance to supporting and valuing demand-driven spaces for civil society to convene and engage. There were promising signs that the Civil Society Index can offer one such entry point.
  • The Civil Society Index needs to find ways to measure and value the contributions of individual citizens to civil society. It’s increasingly clear that organizational life might obscure, rather than accurately paint, the picture of civil society life. How can we assess the state of civil society and measure the acts and individual moments of civic, associational life? How do social movements and rapidly shifting organizational dynamics get quantified and represented? This is one key challenge ahead for the Civil Society Index team in reshaping its methodology and project framework.

From a personal perspective, we all thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet with so many Civil Society Index partners – from Venezuela, Chile, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Zambia, Armenia, Turkey, Russia and Italy. We were reminded of the immense amount of expertise residing with our partners, and we were reminded once again that they do – and should – lead the process. As we continue the journey that is the Civil Society Index, the World Assembly 2010 will represent an important milestone for CSI partners, for CIVICUS, and for civil society.

Until next year…

In this picture from right to left: Megan McGarry(CSI officer), Mark Nowottny(CSI coordinator), Zeynep Meydanoglu (TUSEV, Turkey), Uygar Ozesmi (Greenpeace Mediterranean, Turkey and CIVICUS Board Member), Lusine Hakobyan (Counterpart International, Armenia) and Tracy Anderson (CSI officer)

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CIVICUS World Assembly 2010: CSI Cross Border Initiatives

Posted by civilsocietyindex on August 24, 2010

On Monday, the final day of the World Assembly, the focus in Workshop 31 fell on different cross border initiatives being carried out within the framework of the CIVICUS Civil Society Index.

Lusine and Zeynep from Armenia and Turkey showcase their collaborative work

Zeynep Meydanoglu (Third Sector Foundation of Turkey – TUSEV) and Lusine Hakobyan (Counterpart International Armenia) began by presenting the Turkey-Armenia Cross Border Initiative, an inspiring example of how the CSI has been used as a platform or – as they put it – an “excuse” for action. This was illustrated by a presentation by new CIVICUS Board Member Uygar Ozesmi, from Greenpeace Mediterranean, focussing on cross border collaboration between Turkish and Armenian environmental NGOs.

Participants then heard from Vanessa Cartaya (SINERGIA in Venezuela) and Luis Serra (Red Nicaraguense por la democracia y el desarrollo local, Nicaragua) about the research taking place in the Latin American region, including how seven organisations implementing the CSI had come together to compare and contrast findings, learn from each other, and work towards action initiatives on accountability.

For the CSI team, the workshop was a thought-provoking one which helped us to take stock of what is going on and what is being done by CSI partners and stakeholders in the broader CIVICUS alliance. At a World Assembly where questions are being raised about the nature of how CIVICUS as an alliance works, it was fascinating to note how much was being done organically and led by CSI partners. Thinking ahead, the initiatives gave real food for thought as to how agendas can and should be leveraged at the regional level to build on the wealth of high quality research produced by the Civil Society Index. As the World Assembly comes to a close, this is something of real significance for all participants.

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CIVICUS World Assembly 2010: Knowledge is power

Posted by civilsocietyindex on August 22, 2010

Give citizens control and ownership of the knowledge that affects them – that was the message on the second full day of the CIVICUS World Assembly as participants came together to discuss the topic of participatory research. Sharing experiences from Russia, Nicaragua and two global participatory research programmes, delegates to the World Assembly participated in the lively session in a workshop entitled ‘A decade of participatory research – does it help development?’.

During the workshop, John Gaventa (Chair of Oxfam GB and head of the Development Research Centre on Citizenship Participation) outlined the key reasons why participation in research was important and key, arguing that it contributes meaningfully to social cohesion, successful development interventions, and an active citizenry. Liliana Proskuryakova from Higher State University in Russia, and Luis Serra from the Red Nicaraguense por la Democracia y el Desarollo Local in Nicaragua then shared their own examples of participatory research, drawing heavily on their experiences of the Civil Society Index. Beniam Gebrezghi, Programme Specialist at the United Nations Development Programme, then compared and contrasted the Civil Society Index with the range of other civil society assessment tools, noting the enormous growth in the number of assessments during the past decade, but returning to the significance of the participatory nature of the CSI as one key distinguishing feature.

Delegates at the World Assembly will have a further opportunity tomorrow, Monday, to discuss how such initiatives can also contribute to development in Workshop 31 on the theme of Action-research across borders (see for full details). With civil society space and development effectiveness both high on the civil society agenda here in Montreal, one challenge becoming increasingly apparent for civil society is how to best make sure that the knowledge on which development interventions and attempts to protect and increase civil society space are founded is that which best reflects citizens’ concerns and needs.

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CIVICUS World Assembly 2010: How to achieve economic justice for all?

Posted by civilsocietyindex on August 21, 2010

How to achieve economic justice for all? That was the question that dominated Day Two of the CIVICUS World Assembly today in Montreal. In an opening plenary session, a range of panellists including the World Bank’s Vice President, Otaviano Canuto, discussed the challenge of seeking out solutions to the economic injustices facing the poor and marginalised.

While the weight and balance of discussion undoubtedly sided with the bank-bashing, tomato-throwing elements of civil society, perhaps the most interesting part of the discussion came when Canuto batted off with ease some of the angrier criticisms of the World Bank, calling for civil society to avoid “demonising” international institutions and those working within them. The implication, articulated clearly by Sanjeev Khagram, one of the other panellists, was that civil society had to target where the real power lay: the elite of bankers and financial ministers who in the wake of the financial crisis had unilaterally, and without accountability, shaped the key decisions.

But for me, the natural extrapolation of this argument was an interesting one: if civil society wants change, then perhaps the only real change it can bring about is in itself and in its own attitudes towards working with others. On day one, we heard from the Youth Assembly Chair that we were here to “change the nature of change itself”. Well, that is all very well. But until civil society organisations are prepared to change their stance and move away from the all-too-easy criticism of scapegoats – and relatively powerless scapegoats at that – then perhaps the change they seem so determined to bring about will remain as illusive as ever.

In any event, the plenary made for stimulating discussions and laid the groundwork well for the first workshop sessions which then followed, on a range of eleven different topics.

For the Civil Society Index team, it has been another intensive day of discussion and work. With CSI workshops to look forward to tomorrow (Sunday) and Monday, the World Assembly is beginning to be a great opportunity to meet with some of our CSI partners. Tomorrow, the discussion focuses on development effectiveness. The extent to which civil society sees itself as part of the solution, rather than simply the world’s conscience looking through the window from the outside, may just determine how much we can collectively get out of this year’s Assembly.

The CSI World Assembly team (from left to right: Mark Nowottny, Megan MacGarry and Tracy Anderson)

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CIVICUS World Assembly 2010: First day sets the scene

Posted by civilsocietyindex on August 21, 2010

Today, the CIVICUS World Assembly 2010 finally kicked off amid much fanfare. As the Youth Assembly drew to a close with a march through central Montreal for inclusion of human rights standards in poverty and the MDGs, the full Assembly opened in style at the Palais des Congres.

For a deeply jetlagged Civil Society Index team, the potential of the occasion was overshadowed only by the knowledge that calls to action and cries for change were nothing new. As Ingrid Srinath (CIVICUS Secretary General) and Mario Lubetkin highlighted in the opening plenary, the challenges and crises to which civil society looks today to respond are multiple and deep. And yet, here was another forum for talk, for discussion, and for exchange. Where, as Youth Assembly Chair Samar Mezghanni put it, was the action?

Well, the jury is still out on whether the CIVICUS 2010 World Assembly will really bring about the kind of action needed to make a meaningful dent in the armour of the economic or climatic injustices facing the world. Nor, indeed, does it look possible that the next few days will even begin to turn the tide. But there were two interesting things coming through as early as this opening plenary session, both of which gave cause for hope.

CIVICUS staff arrive at the Palais des Congres on Thursday

First, the momentum to define a new and fairer paradigm of human existence has not declined since the outrage which followed the financial collapse in 2008. This much was articulated by Ingrid Srinath who called, with what I’d like to think was tongue-firmly-in-cheek, for a shift from homo economicus to homo civicus.

One reflection of this desire lies in calls to put human rights at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) during the review summit this September at the UN in New York, led by the Every Human Has Rights Campaign and endorsed by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay in a video message to the Assembly. But elsewhere too – even well outside of the World Assembly – exists this thinking. Indeed, only streets away, the Montreal-based International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity lie at the heart of recent attempts to integrate culture into, and humanise, development – most notably through the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, a landmark Convention often seen as originating here in Quebec.

Second, there is cause from optimism from the focus given to celebrating grassroots practitioners. Civil society’s  occasional tendency towards elitism, of course, has been well documented, but one particular example from today’s plenary stands out: Rosario Romero Banda, from Forum Solidaridad Peru, spoke of how the CIVICUS Civil Society Index and a CIVICUS Innovation Award in 2008 had inspired her towards participatory research with Andean women in a cross-border initiative with Bolivian partners. The testimony, it struck me, speaks volumes for the importance of participatory research not only by the richer organisations operating at the international level, but also among smaller grassroots organisations. In a workshop on Monday, Rosario and her colleagues will have the chance to further showcase their work.

So as the first day comes to a close, there is still much to hope for here in Montreal, and the quality of discussions will doubtless be high. Whether or not these discussions are enough to bring about serious action, only time will tell.

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CIVICUS World Assembly 2010: So Here We Go

Posted by civilsocietyindex on August 19, 2010

Welcome to the blog from the Civil Society Index team at the CIVICUS World Assembly. Over the next few days, we’ll be doing our level best to keep you up to date with some of what’s going on at the 2010 CIVICUS World Assembly, being held this year in Montreal, Canada between 20-23 August. And in the process, we’ll be trying to give you our own personal take on what we see as some of the most pertinent thinking and debates taking place within civil society at this year’s forum.

Attending this year on behalf of the Civil Society Index (CSI) team are Mark (Nowottny), Megan (MacGarry) and Tracy (Anderson), a Briton, South African and Canadian respectively. Rather than the beginning of a bad joke, we’re hoping that this diversity should bring you our own rather different, and personal, perspectives on what the goings-on mean for civil society and, of course, for participatory civil society research in particular. Tracy, who this week returns to her native country, is particularly keen to fly the Canadian flag at CIVICUS. She’ll doubtless struggle to avoid blogging on bears, maple syrup and all other wonderfully stereotypical Canadian things, but in amongst that there’ll hopefully be some thoughts on what it all means for Montreal.  

For Megan and myself, it’s both our first time in Canada and also our first World Assembly. With little to compare against, expectations are high, and we’re keen to tap into the excitement surrounding what’s reputed to be one of the larger and better global forums in which CSOs from all around the world, working on all sorts of issues, can come together.

Right now, as we write this blog post from a sleepy John F Kennedy airport in New York, that excitement is tempered by the fact we’ve just stepped off the first in a series of grueling flights. Originating from Johannesburg and stopping at the dead of night in Dakar, we’ve already dipped our toes into the world of caffeine addiction that so often accompanies work trips of these nature. But needless to say, fast-forward 36 hours and the World Assembly proper will have started with its opening plenary session. With the clock ticking, the adrenaline grows.

So what can we expect from the days ahead, and what is there of interest for those working with participatory research?

Well, in terms of thematic content, there is much of universal interest for all CSOs to digest. The World Assembly, centred around the concept of Seeking Out Solutions, touches on three of the most acute and pressing issues facing civil society right now: economic justice, climate justice and development effectiveness. The list of keynote speakers is a pretty impressive one, and there seems to be some real hope that the conversations and debates held at the World Assembly can really move forward the global civil society agenda on some of these issues.

Of course, at the heart of all of them lie questions about the role of civil society itself – or rather its absence. For example, during the financial crisis last year, of course, governments, banks and financial institutions came together to seek their own resolution, and in all of this there was widespread concern that the voice of ordinary people and the marginalized was being lost. In seeking economic justice, discussions about how civil society can organize to get a seat at the table are likely to be paramount.

For the Civil Society Index, we have a particular interest in the development effectiveness stream at the World Assembly, which looks set to be interpreted fairly broadly. For a while here at CIVICUS, we’ve been asking ourselves difficult questions about whether and how the CSI contributes to development and to positive social change. The theory – as you can see from multiple papers and blog posts – is certainly sound. The CSI creates new spaces for joint reflection and for putting the process of knowledge generation about civil society in the hands of civil society itself (rather than donors or governments), creating a platform for much better and more targeted action and interventions to strengthen civil society and their work. But questions still abound about the practice of the CSI ‘intervention’: what is the extent of the impact? What forms does it take? And what can be learned from other participatory research initiatives?

With all this in mind, we’re particularly looking forward to the workshop we’ll be hosting on Sunday, titled ‘A decade of participatory research: does it help development?’ Here, we’ll be trying to explore more around this and showcasing useful lessons, not just from the CSI but also from other initiatives, some of which are very different. Of course, the report and findings from the workshop will be up here on the CSI blog just as soon as we can share them with you. But in the meantime, we encourage you to check out the enormous amount of other things going on at the World Assembly at, and of course to follow the other communications platforms at and

For now, we hope you’re half as excited as we are. And now for that next pot of coffee….

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CSI’s External Impact Assessment Report

Posted by civilsocietyindex on August 17, 2010

The CIVICUS Civil Society Index will soon officially launch both versions of the External Impact Assessment report, which highlight key positive impacts, challenges, and recommendations from the previous Phase 2003-2006. The entire CSI team has been actively working on these documents for the past year and is greatly looking forward to showcasing these pieces at the upcoming World Assembly taking place next week in Montreal from the 20-23 of August.

The Full External Report was completed by SKAT Management, an external Swiss Consultancy. This report consists of detailed content gathered from interviewees and focus group participants. The Full External Report provides an objective point of view to evaluate the CSI’s areas of positive impact and offer recommendations for overcoming challenges. You can access the full report by clicking here.

The more concise Summary Report, compiled by the CSI team, highlights key points from the Full External Report by pointing the reader towards the CSI’s positive impacts throughout Latin America, Mozambique, Turkey, and Indonesia in the areas of knowledge generation, transparency, coalition building between CSOs and local governments, and fruitful dialogue surrounding the definition of civil society. The Summary Report also provides the public with a sense of what the CSI’s current actions in response to the challenges identified in the Full Report and feedback from partners. Examples of current CSI initiatives include: ensuring the CSI is user-friendly, continuing to support NCOs through the implementation process, strengthening networks at the regional level, and supporting linguistic diversity by encouraging the production of country reports in local languages. You can access the summary report clicking here.

Developing these documents has been a challenging, yet rewarding process, allowing the CSI to effectively examine its real impacts on the state of civil society. The CSI has surely added value to initiatives which greatly impact the strengthening of civil society.

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