CIVICUS – Programme to address public trust in CSOs

The question of how civil society organizations (CSOs) should develop and retain their public trust and credibility is one that has plagued CSO leaders over the last two decades. It has become particularly critical in the recent past as CSOs increasingly face a mounting backlash from governments, the private sector and multilateral agencies, and multi-sector partnerships involving CSOs increasingly become a feature of development practice.

But what exactly is the nature and extent of this backlash and what are the legitimacy and accountability issues that CSOs should be concerned about? What efforts to bolster CSO legitimacy already exist? Are there any common threads to all these initiatives? Given the heterogeneity of the CSO sector, could there be any common international standards that CSOs should be seeking to institute? These are some of the questions that will be addressed by the scoping exercise on legitimacy and accountability recently launched by CIVICUS and the Hauser Centre for Non-Profit Organizations. The scoping exercise will be carried out in a participatory manner and will take advantage of opportunities presented by international gatherings like the World Social Forum and the CIVICUS World Assembly (21–25 March), as well as regional and national convening events, to undertake consultations.

Civil society has a moral underpinning based in solidarity and compassion for the fate and well-being of others. CSOs’ interventions are based on a sense of personal responsibility and reliance on one’s own initiative to do the right thing. CSOs’ impulses towards altruistic giving and sharing, and their refusal of inequality, violence and oppression, are rooted in these values. CIVICUS would like to contribute to a principles and values-based framework for the development and implementation of standards, which are crucial if public trust in CSOs is to be enhanced.

For more information about the legitimacy programme and the scoping exercise, contact David Kalete at

For information about the CIVICUS World Assembly in Gaborone, Botswana on 21–25 March, visit

For more information about CIVICUS, contact Caroline Manuel-Ubaldo, Director of Communications.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
CIVICUS House, 24 Pim Corner Quinn Sts, Newtown, 2001 Johannesburg, South Africa
Tel+27 11 833 5959
Fax +27 11 833 7997

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