In the margins of the 2021 Development Co-operation Forum, the Global Partnership’s Action Area 2.4, working towards strengthening effective civil society partnerships, hosted a webinar on Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue in a Digital Time: Strengthening CSOs' Enabling Environment with civil society members from 45 countries in attendance.
Moderator Mr. Vitalice Meja (Co-Chair, Global Partnership), followed by Ms. Josefina Villegas (Youth Coordinator, CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness), introduced the focus of the webinar by emphasizing how the pandemic, for better or worse, has altered the ways CSOs gather to discuss experiences in multi-stakeholder dialogues.
Civil society networks increasingly hold dialogues and play their vital role in demanding greater accountability and transparency from governments. An OECD Foresights Policy Paper on Digital Transformation and the Futures of Civic Space to 2030, presented by Ms. Marilyn Cham (Policy Analyst, OECD), reported the mass opening of new civic spaces on national, regional, and global levels.
However, unequal access to digital technology has restricted the effective functioning of CSOs, leading to the exclusion of many from key decision-making processes and jeopardizing opportunities for truly inclusive, meaningful, and effective digital dialogues. Taking Uganda’s recent experience as an example, Mr. Richard Ssewakiryanga (Co-Chair, CPDE) explains how internet access is often blocked during times of turmoil, deterring civil society from functioning effectively. Mr. Modibo Makalou (Special Advisor to Minister of Health and Social Development, Mali) recounted similar experiences in Mali.
Offering tools and guidance to these challenges, the CSO Task Team’s Ms. Sanne Huesken (Policy Officer) presented a three-phase plan, to be executed in collaboration with Global Partnership’s Action Area 2.4 members, for more effective engagement of civil society at the country level. This included i) an online course to build awareness around the role of CSOs, and soon-to-be-launched ii) virtual multi-stakeholder dialogues and iii) face-to-face workshops which invite stakeholders to assess their specific contexts and results emerging from reporting to an indicator on CSO effectiveness in the Global Partnership's monitoring exercise (a measure for how effective the enabling environment for CSOs is to operate and contribute towards development efforts). This process aims to eventually deliver effective action plans for CSOs at the country level.
In conclusion, Mr. Diego López González (Policy Advisor, International Trade Union Confederation) suggests that while digitalization means new partnerships are now at arm’s reach for CSOs to collaborate on issues across borders, the lack of access and democratic ownership of these digital platforms deters CSOs’ activities. “Digitalized dialogue mechanisms must be structured...with follow-up processes, and ensure the promotion of digital inclusion and bridge the digital divide." A democratic model of digital governance is key to strengthen meaningful multi-stakeholder partnerships, especially in the context of and after the pandemic.
To watch the webinar recording, please click here.