The new development paradigm embedded in the SDGs, the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (COP21), and the Addis Ababa development financing framework reflects the emerging world view that civil society has an important role in development, and societal development challenges can be addressed only through a collaborative effort by government, civil society, the private sector, and official development assistance providers. The implication for ADB is that opportunities for supporting more and deeper collaboration with CSOs will increase as its DMCs pursue partnerships with CSOs in implementing the SDGs. ADB’s current commitments and policies for supporting DMC collaboration with CSOs remain relevant and will be strengthened to deepen collaboration throughout ADB operations.

In early 2016, the NGO and Civil Society Center (NGOC) reviewed the current state of CSO engagement in ADB policies and operations, in view of the regional and global trends and the changing role of civil society in poverty reduction and sustainable development. In addition, lessons from TA for Civil Society Participation for Development Effectiveness concluded that deeper CSO participation will improve development outcomes and increase the inclusiveness of programs and projects, including by (i) increasing access to and the responsiveness of health, education, and social protection services; (ii) accessing and leveraging the effects of infrastructure investments; (iii) improving public sector governance and reducing corruption; (iv) helping implement sustainable natural resource management; and (v) improving economic inclusivity through interventions that target poverty. Also, the study recommended the following: (i) demonstration pilots should be supported to deepen CSO engagement in selected DMCs that have proactive CSO engagement policies and programs, (ii) sector and thematic groups should take the lead in developing partnerships with CSOs and support results-oriented CSO engagement in sector lending operations, (iii) country partnership strategies should integrate the new development paradigm on the role of CSOs, and (iv) a strategy for financing CSO engagement in ADB operations should be developed.

PTF provided technical assistance to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to strengthen CSO participation in the Banks’ operations. The assignment included two outputs:

  • Output 1: Capacity for effective civil society organization engagement in the design, implementation, and monitoring of ADB projects improved. The TA cluster will seek a DMC-based solution to enhance CSO engagement and identify areas for skills enhancement. A capacity gap assessment of skills and knowledge on CSO cooperation will lead to (i) development of a learning program to build the capacity of DMC officials and CSOs on effective engagement in key sectors such as climate change, disaster risk management, gender, water, urban services, energy, health, education, and social protection; and (ii) country-specific strategies, such as CSO engagement in fragile and conflict-affected situations. To improve the skills for enhanced CSO engagement of DMC project officials and CSOs, capacity building methods and outputs will include (i) classroom training and learning-by-doing (on-the-job training, mentoring, and cross-learning visits); (ii) networking and peer learning programs; and (iii) e-learning and blended-learning courses. The TA cluster will also support regional capacity building through workshops and the use of appropriate information and communication technology (ICT) platforms.
  • Output 2: Demonstration activities through effective civil society organization engagement conducted. TA cluster outputs will focus on ongoing and new ADB operations and country assistance strategies using gender-sensitive and inclusive approaches. New and proposed business processes and innovative engagement models for enhanced CSO engagement will be field tested in selected DMCs. The main activities include (i) collecting and sharing information, and supporting CSO participation in achieving the SDGs and, where applicable, Open Government Partnership national action plans and other institutional mechanisms for civil society government engagement; (ii) collecting and sharing information with ADB country teams and government agencies on major CSO-led development programs in the participating DMC; (iii) developing CSO country assessments and ADB CSO country cooperation action plans in country planning activities; (iv) incorporating knowledge and expertise of CSOs through the establishment of regional and national advisory committees; (v) integrating context-sensitive CSO engagement into the design of new loans and grants in the ADB project pipeline; (vi) supporting the implementation of planned CSO participation in ongoing ADB-financed projects through TA and capacity building; (vii) supporting ADB resident mission offices and project teams working with CSOs; (viii) demonstrating new engagement tools and processes with CSOs in ADB projects; (ix) identifying and implementing opportunities to leverage ADB CSO partnerships on ADB projects; (x) supporting the involvement of CSOs in the design, implementation, and monitoring of project activities and outputs; (xi) supporting CSO-participatory activities to enhance the delivery of services to poor, vulnerable, and marginalized communities; and (xii) creating CSO advisory committees (national and regional) to support TA knowledge generation and sharing. The advisory committees will facilitate discussions and provide recommendations to stimulate increased CSO engagement in ADB projects.
  • Output 3: Knowledge products about effective civil society organization engagement in ADB operations generated and shared. The TA cluster will capture and disseminate lessons and experiences of good practices involving CSO engagement in project planning, design, implementation, and monitoring, and highlight in-country and regional knowledge platforms. The knowledge products will demonstrate how CSO engagement enhances project quality and promotes inclusive development. Capacity building and field testing of new business processes will be undertaken under output 1, and enhanced CSO engagement models under output 2. Lessons from these activities may be developed into e-learning courses and blended learning programs to be used as part of a continuous capacity development program. Special attention would be devoted to CSO engagement to improve inclusion of specific marginalized and vulnerable groups in ADB operations. Practical grassroots CSO engagement participatory tools and techniques will be generated locally and lessons monitored and shared among local CSOs and project operational teams. The TA cluster will develop tangible knowledge products using ICT and other appropriate communication tools (e.g., printed materials may be used for knowledge dissemination where internet access to local communities is not available, or as appropriate to enhance the effectiveness of discussions, interactions, and dialogues). These knowledge products will be integrated into ADB country knowledge planning and use country knowledge platforms such as ADB’s K-Learn learning platform to capture lessons, processes, and unique features of the enhanced CSO engagement.