On 23 May, the CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) programme launched the first volume of its Global Survey of the State of Civil Society. Featuring the profiles of civil society in 44 countries around the world, the publication presents a detailed yet concise description of the current state of civic activism in each country, highlights the key strengths and weaknesses of civil society, and puts forward specific recommendations to strengthen the sector’s capacity to contribute to positive social change.
The findings of the CSI Global Survey are based on a multi-year project conducted by local organizations and coordinated by CIVICUS. The first phase of the study between 2003 and 2006 involved about 7,000 civil society stakeholders worldwide.
Well-known civil society activist Srilatha Batliwala observes about the CSI Global Survey: ‘By allowing civil society agents themselves to define and develop indicators in a country-specific, contextual, but fundamentally comparable manner, the CSI symbolizes the sort of democratic and bottom-up methodology that other transnational assessment processes would do well to emulate.’
Key themes discussed in the publication include: the challenges posed by limited accountability of public institutions as well as of CSOs; the disjuncture between individual citizen engagement and organized civil society; the incipient and complicated relations of CSOs with the private sector; and the quest for a greater role for civil society in policy and governance. An upcoming second volume of the Global Survey, to be published at the end of 2007, will look at all these major themes from a comparative, cross-country perspective, with contributions by more than 20 leading academics and practitioners.
In 2008, the CSI project will start the second phase of its global assessment project. For this purpose, an open call for interested partners and funders will be issued later this year.