The Global Standard for CSO Accountability – An intense and participatory journey

14th December 2023 by Anabel Cruz and Miriam Niehaus

Almost exactly 10 years ago during the Global Perspectives conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, hosted by the International Civil Society Centre and CIVICUS, colleagues from AccountableNow (back then the INGO Accountability Charter), InterAction, Rendir Cuentas and VANI introduced an idea: to establish a Global Standard for CSO accountability. An idea developed into a global partnership driving a paradigm shift from reporting on accountability, mainly for donors’ sake, to Dynamic Accountability. The Global Standard has been developed as a tool for strengthened impact and resilience by becoming more transparent, responsive, ethical and accountable towards the people whom we work for and with. By now the Global Standard is both a tool for organisations to showcase their accountability and with strengthened integrity withstand attacks design to shrinking civic space, as well as a means to shift power in the mechanisms of programme and strategy development.   

The partnership’s story is one of exemplary global collaboration between regional and national CSO network organisations that worked very hard to achieve an agreed vision for accountability and then implement and translate it to their local context.  With the support of Sida Sweden, several project partners from all corners of the world initially came together to develop the Global Standard: AccountableNow, the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN), the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC), Deniva, InterAction, the International Civil Society Centre, Rendir Cuentas, Viwango, and the Voluntary Action network India (VANI), later to be joined by the Pacific Island Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO), the PHE Ethiopia Consortium, and the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). In December 2017 the Global Standard for CSO Accountability was officially launched at the CIVICUS International Civil Society Week in Fiji. Now, ten years on from its inception, the global collaboration has been able to develop into a full cooperative and independent Partnership that will continue working with the sector in its ever important drive to more and better accountability. Future activities include continuing with the implementation of the Global Standard, and supporting CSOs to strengthen their accountability practices by fostering more horizontal and dynamically accountable relationships between CSOs and actors like donors, governments, and international organisations.  

Though no longer institutionally involved the International Civil Society Centre is proud to have been part of the journey of this important initiative and looks forward to its next steps.  


Global Standard Global Standard

Global Standard Partners 2018


Anabel Cruz

Director and Coordinator

Institute for Communication and Development (ICD) and Regional Initiative Rendir Cuentas

Anabel Cruz is originally from Uruguay and has three decades of experience in civil society promotion, research, and training in Latin America and in the global context. She is the Founder Director of the Institute for Communication and Development (ICD) in Uruguay and has been a consultant and evaluator for international organizations, a trainer and facilitator and a visiting lecturer at universities in several countries. She is an expert on topics related to citizen participation, civil society transparency, accountability, and good governance. She has a long working experience with local, national, regional, and global CSO networks and platforms promoting transparency and accountability of civil society and other stakeholders, leading international research, and coordinating the efforts of organizations to implement common standards, and models for accountability mechanisms. She has been the Board Chair of CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation in two different periods (2007-2010 and 2016-2019). She led the creation in 2009, and is since then the co-coordinator of Rendir Cuentas, a Regional Civil Society Accountability Initiative, with active CSO members and partners in 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Anabel is currently the Civil Society Co-Chair of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Steering Committee.

Miriam Niehaus

Head of Programmes

International Civil Society Centre

Miriam leads the Centre’s programmes. She started at the Centre as Executive Assistant in 2014 and then, as Project Manager, developed and implemented the Centre’s projects on civic space between 2016 and 2019. Prior to joining the Centre Miriam worked for VSO International and GIZ in the Palestinian Territories. She holds a BA in Islamic Studies and Social Anthropology from the University of Freiburg and an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Call for Applications: Strategic Research Consultant

29th June 2022 by Elizabeth Parsons

The Centre is looking for a strategic research consultant to conduct a mapping and support event content preparations during the initial phase of its new initiative “Anticipating Futures for Civil Society Operating Space”. The initiative’s overall aim is to strengthen anticipatory capacities and future readiness of civic space-focused professionals in international and national civil society organisations.

The Centre is commissioning a consultant to:

  1. Draw out the potential connections between how governments frame and respond to crises, including complex, uncertain future events like climate disruptions, and the implications for civil society action and operating space. 
  2. Explore how states have pivoted to security framings in crises, the impact this has had on civic space and operating conditions, and the signals CSOs should increasingly become aware of. 
  3. Explore emergent opportunities for civil society from previous crises – such as COVID-19 – which served to change or influence state perceptions, narratives and framings of civil society.  
  4. Outline previous and current work in the field on “civic space futures” (e.g. International Center for Not-for-Profit Law’s (ICNL) Civic Space 2040 initiative of 2020).
  5. Identify gaps that require collective sector approaches and initiatives.  
  6. Prepare the results of this mapping in writing (report of ca. 15 pages) or as a visualisation/map.

    Find the full tender and how to apply here

    The Centre invites qualified individuals, pairs or small teams to submit a proposal for the requested services. The application needs to be submitted by 15 July 2022.

    If you meet the selection criteria, please submit your application to Eva Gondorová and Miriam Niehaus including:

    1. Cover letter (no more than 3 pages), including:
    • A brief description of your experience and expertise in the field that illustrates your overall qualifications and capabilities for this scope of work, including two examples of your previous comparable work;
    • A brief description of your understanding of the scope of services and proposed methodology for the work;
    • Your consultancy rate (amount in EUR/day) and amount of working days.

      2. Your CV.

        3. Two references that can be contacted should you be shortlisted.

        Communications Manager

        International Civil Society Centre

        Global Perspectives Speakers’ Participation Agreement

        10th August 2020 by Thomas Howie
        Name of the organisation, network, foundation...etc that the speaker is affiliated with

        Communications Manager

        International Civil Society Centre

        Solidarity Playbook Case Study

        18th June 2020 by Eva Gondor

        Think you might have a case study to share?

        Then let us know what your case study is about by answering the questions below. Brief answers to all questions – also not required ones – would be very helpful for us to get a better idea of your case. After submitting this form, we will get in touch with you.

        Case Study Submission Form

        e.g. legal restrictions, bureaucratic clampdowns, financial constraints, media and misinformation/disinformation attacks or digital and cybersecurity risks.

        Got a question?

        Then get in touch with Project Manager Eva Gondorová.

        Eva Gondor

        Senior Project Manager

        International Civil Society Centre

        Eva leads on the Centre's civic space work - the Solidarity Action Network (SANE) aimed at strengthening resilience of and solidarity among civil society actors, and the International Civic Forum (ICF), our annual civic space platform to network and identify opportunities for collaboration. Prior to joining the Centre she worked at the Robert Bosch Stiftung (Foundation) in Stuttgart where she managed the foundation’s projects focusing on civil society and governance in Turkey, the Western Balkans, and North Africa.

        The Opportunity

        7th May 2020 by Wolfgang Jamann

        This article, by our Executive Director, is part of a collection of think-pieces by civil society leaders called “The Future of Civil Society Organisations” co-ordinated by International Council of Voluntary Agencies and the International Civil Society Centre, with a foreword by their respective Executive Directors. The writings focus on current challenges and opportunities brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are conversation starters over the transformations we want to see in society, and the humanitarian, social justice and environmental sector.

        The Future of Civil Society Organisations (PDF)


        In his book ‘The Great Leveller‘, the historian Walter Scheidel analyses how inequality in societies around the world has continuously, since the stone ages, worsened. His compelling piece describes the only three scenarios which have reduced inequalities significantly: wars, natural catastrophes and pandemics.

        Scheidel is cautious in saying that a historical analysis does not predict the future. And frankly, reading his book in 2019 did not inspire hope and confidence for a concerned reader.

        In April 2020, six weeks into the Corona pandemic, this feels different. While we’re still grappling with the painful comprehension and immediate management of the situation, our thoughts around a desired future start moving into the foreground. Doing away with inequalities, eliminating the gap between haves and have-nots and creating perspectives for people with lesser opportunities, is definitely part of that desired future.

        Inequality is just one of the global injustices we want to overcome. Each of us, irrespective of organisational mandates, could name half a dozen threats to global justice – from ruthless wars to a broken food system, from the doom of climate change to political oppression. Over the past years, it has been painful, slow, sometimes seemingly hopeless to move forward on such big themes. And now? Is there a sudden opportunity to overcome these and heal the broken systems?

        Well, certainly not by magic nor quickly. But the current crisis has shown previously unimaginable actions and reactions, and might as well be a watershed unfreezing of what we think is possible and not. Do we dare to articulate, with a stronger voice and determination, the transformations we want to see in the global societies?

        Futurists and foresighters are currently looking at weak and strong signals on the post-Coronavirus situation. The most unlikely scenario will be ‘business as before’, once a solution – vaccine or treatment – is found. The biggest questions appear around so-called ‘systems changes’. Is the globalist, capitalist, financial and political system good enough in times of increasing global challenges? Where will our societies drift – back into nationalist and inward-looking behaviours, or forward towards global solidarity, interconnected actions and multilateral governance? And how will the current experience affect our dealing with ‘the other’ large global crisis around climate change?

        Highly relevant to these future systems will be the role of organised civil society, whether it is aid, social discourse, political decision-making or framing the narratives that hold our societies together. We should not let others define the future of the values and systems that matter for civil society around the world.

        Civil society’s most significant contribution to overcoming this crisis will be working in collaboration, focusing on solidarity and empathy. The humanistic values that bind us, and the societies we work in, demand that we are forward-looking and strategic in our actions, irrespective of the high operational pressures out there. Putting people, unorganised and organised civil society at the centre of post-Coronavirus planning is the task we need to unite behind and show collective leadership.

        But we need more. To start with, the vision of a just and healthy planet, as articulated in the Sustainable Development Goals need refreshing. Following on from that, all major political and societal decisions need to be guided by that vision, by the ambition for a just society and clean environment.  

        Here are some ideas. What if:

        – People in the service sector, the formal and informal gig economy, are paid a living wage;

        – Mass mobility is drastically reduced in lieu of ecologically sustainable ways to meet and communicate;

        – Taxation is directed towards a stronger common good, and tax avoidance loop-holes closed and tax evasion penalties are enforced with lasting consequence;

        – Reformed multilateral crisis mechanisms effectively ceasing wars and sanctioning crimes against humanity;

        – Production and consumption patterns support local economies, protect the environment and foster healthy diets;

        – Inclusion of the ‘bottom billion’ in digitalisation, job creation and public health care becomes a priority for development ambitions;

        – Human rights principles and civic freedom move back into the centre of societal values discussions?

        The list can be expanded. We need the courage and the determination not to waste this crisis. Only then, can we bring people together as a society that shows solidarity and cohesiveness in the current crisis and goes beyond the fragmentations and antagonisms that have characterised the past years. 

        Wolfgang Jamann

        Executive Director

        International Civil Society Centre

        Dr. Wolfgang Jamann is Executive Director of the International Civil Society Centre. Until January 2018 he was Secretary General and CEO of CARE International (Geneva). Before that he led NGO Deutsche Welthungerhilfe and the Alliance 2015, a partnership of 7 European aid organisations. From 2004-2009 he was CEO & Board member of CARE Deutschland-Luxemburg and President of the CARE Foundation. Previously, he worked for World Vision International as a regional representative in East Africa (Kenya) & Head of Humanitarian Assistance at WV Germany. After his Ph.D. dissertation in 1990 he started his career in development work at the German Foundation for International Development, later for the UNDP in Zambia. As a researcher and academic, he has published books and articles on East & Southeast Asia contributing to international studies on complex humanitarian emergencies and conflict management.

        Live Chat with Ed Boswell on “Organizational Culture and Its Impact on Change in the Civil Society Sector”

        12th September 2018 by Thomas Howie

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        Thomas Howie

        Communications Manager

        International Civil Society Centre

        Thomas joined the Centre in June 2017 as the Communications Coordinator. He is responsible for developing and implementing the Centre’s global communication strategy, as well as the Disrupt & Innovate platform – a place for civil society professionals and activists to discuss current innovations and future trends in the civil society sector. Prior to the Centre, Thomas worked for 5 years in the European Parliament firstly as the Digital and Social Media Coordinator for the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, and then, after the 2014 European elections, for Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brannen as Head of Communications, where he worked on issues such as the EU-US trade deal, issues around Brexit and as a specialist on the Petitions Committee. Thomas graduated from Bristol University with BSci in Geographical Sciences and holds an MA in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford, where he completed research into the role of civil society in the post war peace settlement in northern Uganda.

        Report: The Fight Back Against Rising Repression in On

        1st May 2018 by Andrew Firman

        In the face of rising restrictions and brazen attacks on fundamental freedoms, citizens across the globe are responding with resolute resistance, in creative, and powerful ways.

        This is the main takeaway of CIVICUS’ 2018 State of Civil Society Report.  Findings from the report identified 10 key trends. Notable among these is a spurring of peaceful resistance by active citizens and civil society against unjust actions. The report points out that almost everywhere we look, we see signs of citizens organising and mobilising in new and creative ways to defend civic freedoms, fight for social justice and equality, and push back on populism. This trend is most exemplified in the spotlight that has been shone on patriarchy, sexual harassment, gender and power imbalances, thanks to the #MeToo and Times Up movements.

        The report references several positive examples to illustrate fight back against restrictions and regressive policies. These include citizen action to persuade the government in El Salvador to pass a law banning gold mining practices that harm the land, water and communities. In Romania, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to resist government plans to soft-pedal on corruption, and in South Korea, mass protest action led to the impeachment and jailing of a corrupt president.

        This review of civil society highlights how when the worst of humanity came to the fore in places like Myanmar, Syria and Yemen, civil society showed its best by voluntarily placing themselves in the firing line to expose human rights abuses.

        The other trends explored in the report relate to the different ways in which civil society and democratic space is being squeezed.

        There have been increasing instances of personal rule and the politics of patronage eclipsing the rule of law and undermining democratic institutions in many countries. Among these are examples of Bolivia and Uganda, where leaders sought to illegitimately amend national constitutions to stay in power to extend their tenures. China’s president Xi Jinping followed suit by potentially making himself president for life. The report also points to instances where hard-line presidents have engineered courts in their favour, such as in Venezuela where judges were jailed for opposing the president and proxies were appointed to skew court decisions.

        Another noted trend is the rise of polarising politics and unjust economic systems dividing societies and reducing the international community’s ability to address key global challenges such as violent conflict, inequality and climate change. The report finds that identity-based politics are trumping issue-based politics through neo-fascist ideologies that encourage xenophobia and narrow notions of nationalism in several countries including Hungary, India, Israel, the Philippines, Turkey, Uganda and the US.

        Attacks on the independent media and online freedom are other key highlights. Several high-profile journalists reporting on corrupt activities of political and economic leaders or covering public protests are being attacked in brazen ways.  Examples include the car bomb killing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana, who exposed high-level corruption in Malta.

        The promise of the internet and social is being compromised with illicit surveillance becoming more commonplace. Many in civil society are being targeted by false propaganda is spread by rogue states and extreme right-wing elements. At times of contestation, such as elections or national protests, governments, such as those in Cameroon, Iran and Togo during 2017 shut down the internet or access to social media tools to restrict communication. The report finds that online platforms have become battlegrounds in which regressive voices are seeking to shape opinion with misinformation and myths, including through trolls imploding progressive conversations.

        Another worrying phenomenon is the rise of ‘uncivil’ society – socially conservative forces claiming civil society space, increasingly emboldened by populist and repressive politics. These groups – which include think tanks that advance nationalist and xenophobic ideas and protest movements against LGBTI, refugee, migrant and women’s rights – are seeking to weaken the impact of civil society that advances progressive positions. An example, the report notes, is Poland, where state funding schemes have been reworked to enable greater support for uncivil society.

        The report makes a number of key recommendations for active citizens, democratic governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector, media and academia. Democratic governments are encouraged to model the deepening of democratic practice by enabling spaces for discussion, dissent and dialogue at all levels and to resist moves to weaken human rights standards at the multilateral level. Active citizens are urged to connect locally, nationally and internationally on social justice causes and mobilise in different ways, including through volunteering.

        Another key recommendation is that multilateral institutions should reinforce the primacy of civil society participation in decision-making and find new ways to open up spaces for public participation in their activities, while the private sector, media and academia are encouraged to make common cause with civil society in the defence of human rights by forming new alliances, sharing platforms and partnering in joint campaigns.

        Andrew Firman

        Editor in Chief