CSOs and Situations of Conflict

CSOs working in situations of conflict face particular challenges to their effectiveness as development actors, and the Open Forum is undertaking a seperate theamtic consultation to explore these issues with the sector. Open Forum GFG member CIVICUS is leading the coordination of this thematic consultation.


Download the

Global Report on CSOs Working in Situations of Conflict

New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States

Download the list of countries / organisations that have endorsed the “New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States” so far.

Download relevant documentation of the January 2012 Steering Group Meeting below:
- Draft Summary Record of the Steering Group Meeting; List of participants; Presentation, Budget

Visit the International Dialogue website here.

Some Ways Forward...

- What the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding has not talked about (Interpeace)
- How to make aid more effective for people affected by conflict and fragility (CDA)
- Peacebuilding in international policy: a to-do list after Busan (SaferWorld)
- Post-Busan: Implementing the New Deal for Fragile States (link in GERMAN)

Overview of potential conflict and fragility related priorities for CSOs in the post-Busan period (from the Evaluation of the Building Block on Conflict and Fragility following the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness):

Continuing to engage in ongoing global policy processes

- In order to respond to advocacy opportunities and priorities, more participatory and inclusive networking between interested actors, with greater efforts/outreach to ensure active involvement and leadership of CSOs working in contexts affected by and at risk of conflict, including humanitarian, development and peacebuilding communities.
- Encouragement of governments who have not yet endorsed the New Deal to do so
- Joint advocacy for inclusion of peace, security, justice and governance related goals in debates on the renewal of the MDGs.
- Joint advocacy for more inclusive policy dialogues that allow for participation of CSOs and people from conflict-affected countries, together with resources to do this and for CSOs to provide any appropriate capacity support.
- Joint advocacy for the development of appropriate indicators to define and uphold the PSGs, with a strong focus on public perceptions of progress.

Supporting implementation of New Deal commitments

- CSO involvement in implementation of the commitments made on peacebuilding in the Busan Partnership and New Deal.
- Encouragement of cross-government and -society awareness of New Deal commitments – and the right way to interpret them – in donor countries and fragile states.
- Sharing of relevant expertise/capacity building (on conflict analysis and conflict sensitivity, inclusive dialogue, participatory quantitative and qualitative monitoring and evaluation).
- Involvement of CSOs in planning and delivery at national and local levels - and defence of the enabling environement in conflict affected countries.
- Monitoring of the commitments made on peacebuilding in the Busan Partnership and New Deal and of the Fragile States Principles (including accountability for the commitment to ‘do no harm).
- Country level (heavy – especially in pilot countries Afghanistan, CAR, DRC, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Timor L’Este), ensuring multistakeholder approaches and public participation.
- Global level (light with link to country level).

Addressing gaps in current debates and processes

- Joint advocacy on key issues not sufficiently covered in development effectiveness and IDPS debates. For example, the need for:
- Greater coherence between aid, diplomacy, military/security, financial and commercial agendas and co-operation to ensure positive contribution to peace and conflict prevention across governments and by the private sector.
- Measures to address the regional and global dimensions of conflict (the New Deal proffers solutions only at the level of the nation state) – and ensure that not only recipient countries but also donors take forward the PSGs in their actions.
- Uptake of conflict sensitive approaches by private sector actors.
- The need for greater coherence between the range of different, overlapping and sometimes contradictory commitments, initiatives, policies, principles and guidelines on conflict prevention, development and humanitarian assistance.
- The need to adopt a preventative agenda that identifies ways to help a much broader range of states and societies avoid fragility, and overcome the threats presented by bad governance in particular.
- The need for an agenda that offers consistent and balanced support to stateless peoples and disenfranchised sections of society to claim their rights.
- Joint work to ensure accountability and upholding of humanitarian principles and conflict-sensitive approaches by CSOs.


The Survey

This survey has been a crucial part of the consultation. We thank you for sharing your experience of working in a situation of conflict. Your input enabled us to assess how civil society organisations can be effective in situations of conflict through looking at the impact, enabling environment and governance of CSOs.

The results from this survey will help us identify principles of CSO development effectiveness, guidelines and mechanisms to implement them, as well as deepen our understanding of the enabling environment.

The deadline for completing the survey has now passed. However, you can take a look at the questions in English, French and Spanish.

General Objectives for the thematic consultation on CSOs working in situations of conflict

Collect and disseminate the voice of CSOs working in situations of conflict, and feed into the final version of the International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness, by:
- Identifying and prioritizing common principles of CSO development effectiveness for CSOs working in situations of conflict, based on the already established Open Forum Istanbul Principles.
- Identifying a common set of recommendations to governments and donors on minimum conditions for an enabling environment that are necessary for CSOs to work effectively in situations of conflict
- Developing a set of recommendations on guidelines, mechanisms and indicators to help CSOs working in situations of conflict measure their effectiveness

Activities and target groups

This thematic consultation has been undertaken in a series of sub-regional consultations, as well as desk research and phone interviews, and overall the consultation has analysed the considerations and priorities of civil society organisations working in situations of conflict. The study captures the needs of civil society organisations during periods of violent conflict as well as during the periods of post-conflict and reconstruction.

The role of all development stakeholders, including civil society, governments, and donors, is hugely affected by contexts of conflict. The immediate cost of the loss of human lives, livelihoods, and resources is followed by pervasive poor governance as well as national and regional instability. State fragility and insecurity causes high levels of corruption, weak rule of law and a disjointed civil society with limited options to participate in decision-making processes. During periods of reconstruction when high levels of aid are supporting the state and the civil society sector, it is crucial that accountability and transparency are prioritised in all sectors.

In-depth consultation meetings have been carried out in the following focus countries/regions:

February 28-March 1Skopje, MacedoniaRegional Consultation in the Balkans
March 28-29Harare, ZimbabweConsultation meeting
April 1-2Philippines (Mindanao)Consultation meeting

- Article of Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) summarizing the meeting for the thematic consultation on CSOs working in situations of conflict, Philippines, April 2011



1. Desk-based research on our understanding of ‘situations of conflict’ and the needs and challenges of civil society in conflict situations. This is a literature review to inform the consultation and provide relevant background information using CSO reports, international reports, academic journals and media reports.

2. Initial desk-based research of general overview of the state of civil society in selected focus countries (Zimbabwe, Balkans Region and Philippines) using CIVICUS Civil Society Index findings, CSO reports, media reports, international reports. Key partners in focus countries were identified in December 2010 to contribute to coordination of research in-country.

3. Qualitative research using online survey and in-depth telephone interviews with key civil society actors on the principles of development effectiveness and the enabling environment has been conducted. This research has been done in a number of situations of conflict using CIVICUS membership, partners and Open Forum contacts.

4. In-country consultations have been conducted in Zimbabwe, the Balkans region and Philippines to discuss principles of development effectiveness, guidelines, mechanisms and indicators and the enabling environment. The Balkans consultation has been combined with the CSI national workshop in Macedonia. The consultations involved discussions of the values of civil society, civic engagement, levels of organisation, impact of civil society, and the external environment. They also involved an assessment of existing critical standards and conditions within the Open Forum Global Framework to identify which are most important in situations of conflict. Consultations aimed to be as multi-stakeholder as possible, and include INGOs, CBOs and beneficiaries.

5. Identification of best practices of accountability and transparency mechanisms within the CSO sector in situations of conflict to feed into Guidelines. Are existing models appropriate? If not, are their other models? Analysis of how existing standards and principles for humanitarian work, such as HAP and Sphere align with the Open Forum Guidelines.


The consultation produced a report on development effectiveness in conflict situations. The report contains an overview of the topic, summaries of each of the focus country consultations and an analysis of the findings and recommendations. The report directly addresses the needs and practices of civil society in situations of conflict; it is not a technical analysis of the causes and dynamics of conflict, the process of peace-building or a political analysis. It assesses whether there is a link between the effectiveness/impact and the overall state and environment of civil society which is shaped by conflict.

Download the final report here.

Background Documents

- Definition of Conflict
- Conflict Mapping
- Explanatory note on Conflict Mapping

Other Resources

- Aid Effectiveness in Emergencies: the role of NGOs - Panel Discussion sponsored by the Ditchley Foundation in UK Parliament
- Politicizing Aid in Conflicts and Crises - Briefing Paper by Oxfam

For more information on this thematic consultation, please contact Adele Poskitt at CIVICUS, or write the Open Forum at info at cso-effectiveness.org