China: UNDP-EU helped strengthen rule of law and civil society participation

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To strengthen Civil Society Organizations (CSO) participation in society in China, UNDP and EU supported CSOs through grants. Here, grassroots CSO on Environmental Protection in Qinghai (China), March 2011. Photo: UNDP China

Economic transition and development has stimulated rapid growth in China, which has helped to bring about dramatic reductions in poverty levels and greatly improved people’s living standards. However, rapid growth has also led to greater disparities and inequalities, which brings the need for rule of law, social justice, equitable public services and a robust civil society to the forefront.


To ensure that China’s long-term development is sustainable and that the society remains stable, the Chinese authorities have recognized the need for the public to participate more in governance processes. They have also recognized the importance of improved accountability and transparency in the management of public affairs, and that rule of law needs to be enhanced so as to promote social, legal and judicial equity. Ultimately, these initiatives will lead to people-centered development and the construction of a more harmonious society.


To support China in the process,  UNDP and EU jointly implemented a  project entitled “Governance for Equitable Development” (GED) during a period of five years (2007-2012). The objectives of this initiative were to support the process of governance towards more transparency and accountability, and strengthening the emerging judiciary institutions and civil society organizations in China.

Project results

The project led to improved access to justice and law-making process, and to a more favorable policy and legal environment for civil society organizations in China. More concretely, the GED Project focused on three complementary policy areas:

1. Improving access to justice: The project enhanced the capacities of the highest court in China (the Supreme People’s Court) and local courts in selected regions to deliver fair and transparent justice, and increase the transparency in court decision-making. Some of the reforms supported by the project included the introduction of open trials and the people’s assessors system, the provision of state compensation for victims of crime, and the adoption of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

2. Improving the law making system:  The GED project institutionalized participatory processes for law-making, enhanced capacities for public engagement in law-making processes, and improved law harmonization at national and sub-national levels. Specifically, the project introduced practices for public participation in law drafting through improving the public hearing systems in law-making, and strengthened legal harmonization through legislative filing and review, and post-legislation review.

3. Broadening the involvement of civil society: The project contributed to improve the policy and legal environment for civil society organizations (CSOs) and enhanced perceptions of CSOs’ role in development. It also built Government capacities to involve civil society in policy-making and public service delivery, improved co-ordination and communication among CSOs and with Government, and developed institutional and professional capacities of civil society organizations. The project actions led to policy changes that eased restrictions on CSO registration and improved tax benefits that strengthened the financial situation of these organizations. GED-supported reforms in the overall environment for CSOs also helped to open up space for dialogue between civil society and Government, and developed local organizations across China through the provision of grants for capacity improvement.

Main partners

Key Chinese Government counterparts for the implementation of the project included the National People’s Congress legislative Affairs Commission (NPC), the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MoCA). The main implementing partner was the China International Centre for Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE) of the Ministry of Commerce.

More information

For more information on the GED project, contact the UNDP China Country Office by:


Phone: +86 (10) 8532 0800