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Continuous capacity development and learning are absolute prerequisites to allow civil society to influence and shape domestic and international public policies. In addition, a growing and worrying trend in almost all parts of the world is the shrinking civic space and the “criminalisation” of civil society actions and campaigns. The impact of civil society actors remains highly dependent on the capacity of the actors themselves to mobilise their constituency and partners, to work together, to build expertise based on their practices, to learn from local experience, to engage strategically in interaction with local and national authorities, to develop partnerships with other actors in society, to develop proposals that draw the attention of their constituency, politicians and media.

Forus’ approach to the need for continuous capacity development is impact-oriented, needs-based, uses a peer-to-peer approach, develops leadership, promotes expertise and innovation, reflection and the exchange of best practice amongst its members at the national, regional and global levels. The ultimate goal is to boost the capacities of National Platforms and Regional Coalitions to voice their constituencies’ positions and ambitions, while remaining effective and independent actors despite the growing restrictions on civic activism.

The positive impacts of capacity development, especially for civil society, are wide-ranging and include:

(i) Increasing the ability of CSOs to give voice to the concerns of their constituencies and to provide leadership for social change in their societies.

(ii) Strengthening the ability of civil society in different countries to be able to hold governments to account to a much greater extent.

(iii) Supporting CSOs from different parts of the world to engage in reciprocal exchange and interaction by sharing information, learning from and supporting each other in the development of best practices and methodologies for more impactful results.

(iv) Strengthening the conditions and capacities for joint initiatives at local, national, regional and global levels, heightening CSOs’ political visibility and impact, enabling them to influence key national, regional and global processes affecting development & democracy.

(v) Enhancing the communication and public mobilisation capacities of CSOs through increased legitimacy and credibility of CSOs.

(vi) Reinforcing the governance and accountability systems of CSOs while, at the same time, building CSO’s skills for independent resource mobilisation.

(vii) Building the technical expertise of CSOs to fully seize the digital opportunities of data collection and analysis to promote collective demands based on such evidence.

(viii) Enable CSOs, and especially National NGO Platforms and Regional Coalitions, to remain active, become more strategic and creative in the face of growing restrictions on civic activism, defend civic space at a national level and mobilise on the major cross-cutting issues of the day.

(ix) Strengthen the conditions and capacities for collaborative work between civil society and other key stakeholders (e.g. academia or the private sector) at local, national regional and global levels.

(x) Enable civil society organisations to contribute to implementation of the objective of SDG 17 on Global Partnership through organising themselves to engage more effectively with regional and global-level CSO networks and campaigns on the SDGs.

(xi) Contribute to forging and spreading a growing consciousness of “global citizenship” which must be promoted everywhere in order to overcome the current trends of isolationism as evidenced in the creation of borders and walls in many of our societies. Forus is a legitimate actor to implement a wide and ambitious programme for civil society capacity development & learning at the national and regional levels while ensuring international visibility, synergies and outreach for its members.