Development Co-operation Directorate

Civil Society Engagement in Development Co-operation


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We work with governements and civil society organisations to improve the effectiveness of development co-operation in delivering the sustainable development goals.

Civil society organisations are crucial for sustainable development

Civil society organisations (CSOs) from developing countries and donor countries are development actors in their own right. They play a crucial role in reducing poverty, upholding democratic development and the fulfilment of human rights. They stand out amongst development co-operation partners for their capacity to reach out to, empower, represent, and defend people living in vulnerable situations, and to trigger social innovation. They are therefore essential partners of public and private actors in their pursuit of the 2030 Agenda.

Today, however, efforts by various governments around the world to restrict the civic and political space in which civil society operates have grown at an alarming rate: new laws, policies, and practices limit the possibilities for people to come together to improve everyday lives. In that context, it is even more pressing for donors to offer effective support and partnerships with CSOs, and leverage their knowledge, capabilities and influence.

DAC Members and Civil Society

Aid to civil society organisations at a glance

CSOs are playing a major role in the framework of sustainable development, namely for improving economic, social and political conditions in developing countries. An activity is characterized as aid to CSOs when the core contributions and pooled programmes and funds are programmed by the CSOs and include contributions to finance the CSOs projects.

Key facts

  • DAC members’ aid for CSOs was close to USD 21 billion of ODA in 2019.
  • The average funding for CSOs was 15% of bilateral ODA.
  • The top 7 DAC CSO donors in 2019 are: USA; EU; UK; Germany; Sweden; Norway, The Netherlands.
  • The share of bilateral aid for CSOs varies across DAC members, from Spain’s 56% to Greece’s 0%. There is a group of 10 donors under 10% and 15 above 20%.
  • Funding through CSOs is much more common than funding to CSOs, representing 85% of ODA to CSO. The majority of DAC members continue to work with civil society organisations as implementing partners or contractors.
  • ODA for donor country-based CSOs (USD 13.5 billion) is much higher than ODA for developing country-based CSOs (USD 1.4 billion).

Download compilation of all data: Aid for Civil Society Organisations  | also available in French

Aid to and through civil society, including all DAC Members and individual country members until 2019

Our work


We document and analyse the way in which governments work with and through CSOs.


We facilitate the opening up of the DAC to the scrutiny of civil society, notably through the DAC-CSO Reference Group.


We encourage peer learning in a DAC community of practice.


We set norms and standards for donor support to CSOs.


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