The ambitious objectives outlined in Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) can only be achieved in consultation with international and local civil society. Coherent with the Istanbul Principles and related frameworks such as the International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness and the Busan Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, FIAP is strengthened by a Policy on Civil Society Partnerships for International Assistance (the CSO Partnership Policy). Constructed in consultation with civil society, this policy outlines and defines how Global Affairs Canada (GAC) will engage with civil society actors on the implementation of the FIAP across nine action areas.
Nine action areas include:
- Empowering women and girls, promote gender equality, and reach the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalized as the most effective means to eradicate poverty
- Facilitating a safe and enabling environment for civil society
- Protecting human life and dignity
- Fostering CSO leadership in innovation
- Integrating the role of CSOs as independent actors into international assistance programming
- Establishing more predictable, equitable, flexible, and transparent funding mechanisms
- Fostering multi-stakeholder approaches to international assistance
- Engaging Canadians as global citizens in international assistance
- Promoting sustainability, transparency, accountability, and results
Policy objectives – CSO implications
The human rights-based feminist approaches of FIAP require fundamental shifts in the structures, policies, processes, and programs of civil society actors working with GAC. Many of these shifts require institutional prioritization and resources, as we learned from civil society organizations (CSOs) partaking in the Women’s Voice and Leadership initiative.
Integrating considerations that account for gender norms and existing inequalities as well as devising tools and processes that allow for more gender-responsive and gender-transformative programs is a sector-wide challenge that can be achieved through collaboration, predictable and inclusive consultations, and continuous learning among diverse partners. To support these efforts, GAC and Canadian civil society crafted a policy outlining the entry points for strengthened government-civil society collaboration.
The CSO Partnership Policy highlights the responsibility of civil society actors to consult marginalized groups, including women and girls and ensure their perspectives are integrated across all areas of program design, delivery, and evaluation. Specifically, organizations are called to employ human rights-based approaches and institutionalize gender-based analysis in all of their work. CSOs should also collaborate with local/national responders as indicated through the guidance A Feminist Approach: Gender Equality in Humanitarian Action to strengthen the organizational and response capacity of local humanitarian actors as well as their long-term sustainability.
The CSO Partnership Policy is operationalized through the Implementation Plan, which lists proposed action for each of the nine action areas outlined above. To ensure progress towards the targets outlined in the Implementation Plan, Global Affairs Canada and Cooperation Canada have convened a Civil Society Policy Action Group (CPAG), which is open to civil society actors across the country. The two co-leads comprise the CPAG Secretariat, which on the GAC side reports to the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) for the Partnerships for Development Innovation Branch. CPAG gathers specialists from the sector, with each of the nine action areas co-led by representatives from relevant GAC teams and CSOs, who in consultation with broader coalitions formulate recommendations for policy implementation.
In 2018, CPAG devised a national survey, which informed the prioritization of: Objective 1 (Empower women and girls and promote gender equality); Objective 6 (Establish more predictable, equitable, flexible, and transparent funding mechanisms); and Objective 8 (Engage Canadians as global citizens). The implementation plan for the remaining objectives were approved in 2019, offering a policy tool for CSOs working towards a range of FIAP targets.
During the initial stages of the COVID-19 response, which called for GAC-CSO consultations on urgent matters related to the pandemic and its impact on the sector, CPAG activities were paused. Given the usefulness of tools and commitments outlined in implementation plans for all nine action areas, CPAG is currently calling on CSOs to engage with the group as a platform for improving the effectiveness of GAC-CSO collaboration.
CPAG is re-convening in 2021 to provide an overview of the group mandate and the progress made so far, articulate priority areas for 2021. To support an accountable and a forward-looking approach, CPAG will also be producing snapshot reports on the progress made for all nine action areas.
Canadian civil society organizations are called to engage around the work of CPAG to ensure this forward-looking and ambitious policy for CSO engagement is effectively translated into institutional systems and processes. Stay tuned for information sessions and updates related to this work.
UnyimeAbasi Odong, Policy intern, Research, Policy and Practice