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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

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Record number 553564
Title Government and civil society organizations: Close but comfortable? Lessons from creating the Dutch ‘Strategic Partnerships for Lobby and Advocacy’
Author(s) Wessel, M.G.J. van; Hilhorst, Dorothea; Schulpen, Lau; Biekart, Kees
Source Development Policy Review (2019). - ISSN 0950-6764 - p. 1 - 26.
DOI https://doi.org/10.1111/dpr.12453
Department(s) WASS
Strategic Communication
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2019
Abstract
Motivation
Governments commonly support the advocacy role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in development, but studies argue that close linkages between government and CSOs are problematic. The Netherlands’ policy programme ‘Dialogue and Dissent’ brings together the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA) and 25 (alliances of) CSOs as advocacy partners. The programme is set up from an awareness of the challenging nature of such collaboration.
Purpose
We contribute to understanding the ways in which issues with donor–CSO collaboration can be engaged in donor policies.
This paper addresses two questions: To what extent and how does this programme confront and overcome the challenges of close collaboration between government and CSOs? What practical lessons can be learnt?


Approach

For this paper, we conducted 33 (group)interviews with CSOs and policy officers involved with the Dialogue and Dissent programme, exploring their understandings, expectations and strategies as partners in the programme. We also analysed CSO programmes, policy documents and publicly available information.


Findings

In Dialogue and Dissent, space for dissent, flexibility and relative equality between government and CSOs positively address mutuality and institutional pressures. Challenges remain as estimated strategic significance, diverging capacities and risks to autonomy work against mutuality. Certain challenges are engaged with, but we identified no strategies countering pressures that stem from managerialism within the NMFA, external political pressures and conflicting government objectives. While the programme counters tendencies towards institutionalization of CSOs as insiders, some important challenges to public engagement identified in the literature remain under‐addressed.


Conclusions

Conditions built into policy can address challenges identified in the literature. However, challenges remain that are rooted in wider organizational and political realities. Lessons for practice are: (1) the advocacy role of CSOs can be advanced by building in certain formal conditions and advancing these informally; (2) Flexibility allows for collaboration to develop as government and CSOs negotiate their roles, cognizant of pressures that get in the way; (3) challenges rooted beyond the support policy and government agency involved in the collaboration will constrict the power of policy design; (4) public engagement as a foundation for CSOs’ advocacy roles deserves much more attention.
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