Civil society empowers citizens to advance democratic values of citizen participation and governmental accountability

Somali women living in El Waq, a small town in Somalia have long suffered years of conflict, marginalization and drought. USAID, through Somalis Harmonizing Inter-and-Intra Communal Relationships program, brought these women together from conflicting clans to learn, decide and plan the future of their district in November 2017.     Photo Credit: Mohamed Abdullah Adan, PACT

Civil society can include formal, informal, and information entities such as associations, foundations, membership organizations that serve their members, and public-benefit organizations. This includes unions, and the work they do to ensure citizens have the rights and support to bargain collectively.  Supporting civil society and robust civic engagement advances a political culture that values citizen engagement, tolerance, and respect for human rights. 

Civil society programming can focus on building the capacity and networks of formal and informal organizations to take collective action to advocate for legal and regulatory enabling environments that allow for citizens to freely organize, associate, and express their views. This also involves the design and delivery of active civic education and engagement programs that help cultivate a culture of democracy, and increase the meaningful engagement of all citizens in decision-making processes. Support for civil society can also include helping to connect organizations and initiatives with public and private partners, to work together to  bolster open, secure, and inclusive digital ecosystems that advance democratic values and respect for human rights, rather than undermining them.