Development Co-operation Directorate

Civil Society Engagement in Development Co-operation


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We work with governments 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.

Aid is characterized as going to CSOs when it is in the form of core contributions and contributions to programmes, and the funds are programmed by the CSOs. Aid is characterized as going through CSOs when funds are channeled through CSOs to implement donor-initiated projects (earmarked funding).

Key facts on the flows of official development assistance (ODA) to and through CSOs:

  • DAC members’ aid for CSOs was close to USD 25 billion of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2022.
  • The average funding for CSOs was 11.6% of bilateral ODA in 2022.
  • Funding through CSOs is much more common than funding to CSOs, representing 90% of ODA for CSOs. The majority of DAC members continue to work through CSOs as implementing partners or contractors.
  • ODA for donor country-based CSOs (USD 16.4 billion) is much higher than ODA for developing country-based CSOs (USD 2.5 billion).
  • The top 7 DAC CSO donors in 2022 are: USA, EU Institutions, Germany, UK, Spain, Sweden, and Canada.
  • The top five sub-sectors of intervention for bilateral ODA channeled through CSOs in 2022 were Emergency Response, Government & Civil Society, Population Policies & Reproductive Health, Health, and Education.

Download the compilation of all data: Aid for Civil Society Organisations: statistics based on DAC Members’ reporting to the Creditor Reporting System database (CRS) | Also available in French [February 2024] 

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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