Development Co-operation Directorate

Civil Society Engagement in Development Co-operation


 …/ DCD / _Styles / 00: T4 backOffice (TinyMCE) - 2019
 …/ DCD / _Styles / 02 : DCD documentType (DT) styles 2019

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

Civil Society’s role in promoting sustainable development

Civil society is a key actor in the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), as well as in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery strategies. Yet, civil society faces ever-growing challenges, such as shrinking civic space, attacks against human rights, and rising autocratisation.

Aid providers should enhance their support for civil society to address effectiveness gaps and enable its members to strengthen their accountability mechanisms.

DAC Members and Civil Society

The DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Assistance

The OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Assistance provides the first international framework to guide and incentivise development co-operation and humanitarian assistance providers in advancing their policies and practices to support civic space and civil society actors, at home as well as in partner countries or territories. Adherents to the DAC Recommendation break new ground by committing to its three pillars:

  1. Respecting, protecting and promoting civic space;
  2. Supporting and engaging with civil society;
  3. Incentivising CSO effectiveness, transparency and accountability

The OECD DAC adopted the Recommendation on the 6 of July 2021 after an extensive consultation process with the 30 DAC member countries, within the OECD, and with other stakeholders including the DAC-CSO Reference Group.

OECD Legal instruments

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 21.6 billion of ODA in 2020.
  • The average funding for CSOs was 14.1% of bilateral ODA.
  • The top 7 DAC CSO donors in 2019 are: USA; EU; UK; Germany; Sweden; Switzerland, Canada
  • The share of bilateral aid for CSOs varies across DAC members, from Spain’s 56% to Japan’s 1%. There is a group of 7 donors under 10% and 14 above 20%.
  • Funding through CSOs is much more common than funding to CSOs, representing 85% of ODA for CSOs. The majority of DAC members continue to work with CSOs as implementing partners or contractors.
  • ODA for donor country-based CSOs (USD 13.95 billion) is much higher than ODA for developing country-based CSOs (USD 1.46 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

OECD DAC Civil Society Days

The OECD DAC Civil Society Days are a biennial forum which explores challenges civil society faces, and aims to build partnerships between stakeholders toward Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). Participants identify strategies and practices to promote an enabling environment for civil society to contribute fully to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other international commitments.

In June 2019, the first edition of the Civil Society Days gathered CSOs, OECD DAC members, partner country governments, multilateral institutions, and academia around the theme of shrinking civil society space. The second edition in June 2021 drew attention to the role of civil society in the implementation of the SDGs and in COVID-19 response and recovery strategies

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.


Related Documents