Is Civil Society Healthy in the Middle East/North Africa?

A robust civil society is a crucial element of inclusive and transparent democracies. Civil society organizations (CSOs) can help foster civic engagement, ensure greater government accountability, and increase inclusivity by amplifying marginalized voices. With this in mind, MSI worked alongside partners from USAID, The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, the Aga Kahn Foundation, and regional CSO experts to complete the 2014-2015 CSO Sustainability Index for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

The index tracks trends affecting CSOs in several key MENA countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen. Drawing upon the expertise of local practitioners, the report scores the CSO sector in each country based on dimensions such as organizational capacity, financial viability and advocacy. This research provides development practitioners, donors, and policymakers with a better understanding of the unique challenges facing CSOs, while also illuminating opportunities for regional partnerships and increased sustainability.

From 2014 to 2015, CSOs faced challenging operating environments due to the spread of militant groups, severe humanitarian crises, mass displacement, and economic downturn. Increased Islamic State activity also intensified security concerns, causing many governments to clamp down on CSOs in the name of combatting terrorism.

In spite of these serious challenges, the index documents how CSOs in MENA are finding ways to adapt, create new coalitions and build upon growing public support. Nevertheless, instability and political stagnation continue to threaten their viability. They require increased support from local governments, private sector actors and international donors. Access the full report for further insight and country-specific analyses.

MSI works with local civil society partners to fight corruption and increase government accountability in the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America. Learn more about our work.

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