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The Role of Civil Society Organizations

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Lessons for civil society organizations

1.0 Define clear objectives. First it is crucial for civil society organizations to clearly define their intended objectives. What are the desired goals? Is it tackling corruption and patronage? Ensuring greater pro-poor allocation of resources? Supporting development of marginalized groups? Providing voice for citizens and so on? Defining clear goals would enable more focused engagement with relevant authorities, rather than a tendency to pursue diverse and sometimes uncoordinated activities. For example, a civil society organization which identifies advocacy on infectious diseases as its major objective can focus more effectively on campaigning for greater resources for the treatment of such diseases.

1.1 Develop technical competencies. Perhaps the greatest weakness of most Africa-based civil society organizations involved in fiscal transparency issues at present is their inadequate grounding in the technical issues surrounding their areas of advocacy. In order to improve their impact, such organizations need to improve their levels of


research and training, and to keep abreast with the relevant literature in their fields of concern. For example, an organization advocating for increased transparency of the natural resource sector in its local mining sector should have an adequate grasp of the existing fiscal regime in its local mining sector. Similarly, some basic understanding of budget classification and accounting methods would be essential for any organization involved in tracking expenditures for its local budget.

c. Devise an effective communication strategy. Civil society organizations working on advocacy issues in fiscal transparency must also carefully consider their communication strategies (whether op-ed pieces, advertorials, etc). Clearly, the methods and medium of communication will vary based on the intended audience - whether to the general public, to legislators, or to their local government authorities. In all cases however, the message to be communicated needs to be well-researched, factual and succinct. Wrong information has been communicated in the past - and this does not augur well for government-CSO collaboration.

d. Pursue pragmatic dialogue with relevant authorities. Many critics of civil society organizations argue that they tend to be more confrontational and sensational rather than willing to engage in pragmatic dialogue. There is an increased willingness among many democratic governments to encourage greater dialogue with non-state actors. Civil society organizations must seize this opportunity as a means of influencing public policy and change rather than operating in isolation.

e. Improve lobbying skills. Improved lobbying skills



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