What next for civil society?

Happy New Year from Sydney!

Just back from a great overnight hike in the Blue Mountains.  On the train there, read an interesting article by John Clark, “Civil Society in the Age of Crisis.” Really resonated with what we are trying to get at in Cambodia now, what could be a legitimate role for INGOs in the future:

“… what this means, in practice, is more civil society attention directed towards the processes, rather than towards the substance, of politics and especially to matters of governance. CSOs can help elected representatives in their oversight of government practices related to global challenges and can respond to and even create opportunities for direct citizen participation in the affairs of governments at local, national, and global levels. Such measures will encourage governments to put into practice the rhetoric of their stated policies and will provide feedback on the degree to which this is achieved and the efficacy of those measures…”  (John Clark (2011): Civil Society in the Age of Crisis, Journal of Civil Society, 7:3, 241-263.

Clark frames this as a CSO response to an era of three crises: trans-national terrorism, financial crisis, and climate change. For me, it captures trends that might echo beyond those three (real, grave) crises.  Shouldn’t we (INGOs) be trying, whenever possible, to mobilize collective action of people excluded from processes through which their rights are realized or advanced; and supporting duty-bearers so that they can fulfill their obligations?  That sounds like a (more) sustainable, just, future.

See also the important Syracuse University evaluation of Plan International’s work in Guatemala here.

So what happens when these processes don’t work?  What about Paris, Accra, Busan?

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