Foreign Aid Reduction Grossly Affects CSOs Sustainability

civil society sustainability index summary

-- The Khana Group Validates 'Sustainability Index' Research

The impact of foreign aid reduction on Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Liberia in 2020 has shamefully (crudely) undermined civil society sustainability following an assessment of effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic, a discussion implemented by The Khana Group (TKG) has confirmed. 

A conglomeration of CSOs has validated (confirmed) the reports of the Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index (CSOSI) during a one-day's consultation forum held on Upper Carey Street, Monrovia on Friday, December 10th. Mr. Luther Jeke of iCampus and Anderson D. Miamen of the Center for Transparency and Accountability (CENTAL) were the panelists among the old and newly entrant CSOs.

The CSO Sustainability Index is a tool developed by USAID to assess the strength and overall viability of the CSO sector in countries around the world. 

The Research mentioned that the economic and social disruptions caused by the pandemic is devastating, and it has hugely contributed to the reduced donor support. 

The ‘CSOSI’ pointed out that CSO sustainability showed overall deterioration in 2020, compared to 2019, and indicated that in four (4) of the seven (7) dimensions, CSOs were affected (declined) in 2020, namely: Legal Environment (declined), Organization Capacity (declined) Financial Viability (declined),  Advocacy (unchanged) , Service Provision (declined), Sector Infrastructure (unchanged)  and Public Image (unchanged) .

Accordingly, the research stated that the legal environment weakened slightly as laws affecting CSOs were poorly implemented, although the constitution guarantees freedoms of assembly and expression, many CSOs believed that these freedoms were repressed in the case of organizations and media that did not support the government.

CSOs organizational capacity was slightly weakened because of staffing difficulties and challenges with remote work on line.  The organizational challenges were especially acute in 2020 due to limited funding as a result of COVID-19.

It added, CSOs faced a slight decline in financial viability as donors postponed the disbursement of funds because of the pandemic. Liberia, one of the poorest countries in the world with an underfunded CSO sector and a discouraging  fundraising environment.

“CSOs faced funding vulnerabilities in 2020 as major donors such as the Daphne Foundation postponed disbursements because of the pandemic,” the report said. 

CSOs service provision is moderately weaker because of pandemic-related declines in funding and restrictions on movement and assembly. The Civil Society was prevented from reaching their targeted groups.

The research also showed that CSOs’ advocacy, sectoral infrastructure, and public image did not change. CSO advocacy was stable. Many CSOs shied away from engaging in controversial topics, and activists were afraid and even feared for their lives after the government sought to arrest a talk show host who was critical of its policies despite lacking evidence that he had committed crime.

The Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Coordination Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Development accredited 710 (587 local and 123 international) CSOs in 2020, compared to 639 organizations in 2019. These figures only cover CSOs that apply for accreditation rather than all CSOs operating in the country. The number of unregistered organizations is thought to be high. Most of them exist in name only but are often quickly reactivated when grant opportunities arise.

Meanwhile, CSOSI or the Index is intended to be a useful source of information for local and international CSOs, governments, multilateral institutions, donors, academics, and other partners and stakeholders who want to better understand and monitor key aspects of sustainability in the CSO sector.

The Index allows for comparisons both across countries and over time. The scores reflect the views, opinions, perceptions, and ideas of civil society experts from across diverse sectors. Some of the narrative is supported by primary and secondary research.