Workshop 9: Civic driven change at different levels

Civic Action28 Jul 2009The Broker

Author: Minke van der Sar Chair: Willemijn Verkoren

Cordaid: Initiative for International Dialogue (IID), the Philippines

Presented by Jan Nielen

The IID is a part of Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict.

  • In most conflicts civil society is a victim, but is absent from negotiations that are often between the army and governments. Civil society should play a more proactive role in conflicts.
  • The IID’s objectives are to explore, acknowledge and strengthen the role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in conflict resolution, prevention and peace-building.
  • Recognition of the power of networks: the spider webs of local CSOs reach to different levels; such networks are very strong but flexible.
  • There is a missing link – the regional, intermediate level. There are no CSOs at ASEAN level, because South Asian leaders do not want interventions or external comments on domestic issues.
  • Connecting these networks to the regional level is essential for success, because that is where most power struggles take place. Failure at the local level is usually due to the lack of support at higher levels.

Aflatoun: The children are speaking

Presented by Rediet Abiy

Aflatoun tries to empower children with financial and social skills through schools and education.

  • Implemented by regional workbooks, focus on primary education (6–14 years), combining fun and learning at the same time in a participatory way.
  • There are five core elements: personal understanding and exploration, rights and responsibilities, saving and spending (consistent behaviour), planning and budgeting and small financial practices.
  • Aflatoun organises children campaigns on social justice to create the idea that they can change little things in their surroundings, and so can contribute to their community right now and in the future.
  • Organises events to let children express their ideas, share views and influence decision making.
  • The focus is on children, but also on empowering the community by involving adults so that they can incorporate the children’s ideas, and help them realize that the community affects the children both directly and indirectly.
  • Aflatoun is developing a manual to help children become involved with the curriculum and what the community is doing.


  • Perceptions of CDC are different, there is no fixed ‘idea’. CDC can inspire the way of looking at your work.
  • Is there a role for NGOs at all? Foreign aid may be overestimate because local community initiatives have always existed. However, sometimes we have to help find alternatives, and assist and strengthen civic initiatives.
  • Compare CDC to donor-driven change instead of aided change, because aided change can be positive as long as the donor doesn’t decide for local civil society.


  • The work of NGOs is never neutral.
  • We should think in terms of ‘us’ rather than ‘we’ versus ‘them’, and change our value systems.
  • Money can do harm, including to our interventions. But we will not stop our actions, because we have the responsibility and moral obligation to act as citizens to help the poor and the injured.
  • Self-reflection about responsibility for our obligations: our development agendas, our behaviour as a movement, financial resources and spending, strategies and starting points.
  • There is a tension between encouraging CDC and being tied to the current system.