A fundamental aspect of a democratic state is the right of its citizens to participate in decision-making processes. The success of development and participatory governance depends on both a robust state and an active civil society with healthy levels of civic engagement. Empowered and active citizenship is an end in itself: essential for inclusive growth and national ownership.
Civic engagement refers to that process whereby citizens or their representatives are able to engage and influence public processes, in order to achieve civic objectives and goals. The 1993 UNDP Human Development Report describes civic engagement as "a process, not an event that closely involves people in the economic, social, cultural and political processes that affect their lives." This is why UNDP supports governments to create mechanisms for citizens' engagement in policy processes, including marginalized sections of the population such as indigenous peoples, women and the poor. It also focuses on increasing the capacities and skills of civil society organizations (CSOs) to effectively participate and engage in decision making processes and hold states to account.
For UNDP, the term civil society includes the full range of formal and informal organizations that are outside the state and the market, such as social movements, volunteer organizations, mass-based membership organizations, faith-based groups, NGOs, community-based organizations as well as communities and citizens acting individually and collectively.
UNDP works with CSOs to enhance civic engagement and inclusive participation. Our work focuses primarily on promoting civic engagement by establishing channels of voice, representation (inclusion), transparency and accountability, through its work in the areas of Inclusive Participation, Communication for Development, and Communication for Empowerment.
UNDP's Engagement with Civil Society
UNDP seeks to engage with civil society to promote the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Engagement with civil society is critical to national ownership of development processes, democratic governance, and the quality and relevance of official development programmes.
The Oslo Governance Centre (OGC) works to position UNDP as a champion of democratic governance, both as an end in itself, and as a means to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. This is done through knowledge networking and multi-disciplinary team work, as well as through close partnerships with leading policy and research institutions in different parts of the world.