Civil Society in OIC Member Countries: Challenges and Opportunities
Date : 24 March 2014

Civil Society (CS) refers to the voluntary formations of individuals that work for a common purpose. It is an area outside of the public and private sector. Civil society institutionalizes itself by forming civil society organizations such as charities, environmental organizations, human rights groups to trade unions, chambers and on a larger scale, international organizations. In a tolerant country each citizen has the right to form his or her choice of organization freely as a member of the civil society. Citizens also have the right to engage into any existing civil society organizations. They are also free to decide on to what extent they are going to be active in civil society organizations.

With the rise of globalization, the impact of civil society organizations on governments and citizens has become more significant in many open economies (Anherier, et al. 2001). Well-structured civil society organizations provide benefit to societies in different ways such as providing constructive criticisms to governments in reshaping their policies or being a platform for delivering the message of underrepresented citizens (such as women, elder people) on different issues. Also in developing countries that are receiving international development aid, civil society organizations play another important role by being an agent between donor (aid sending) countries/institutions and aid receiving countries/institutions (such as the positive role of civil society institutions on aid effectiveness) (IOB, 2012). Therefore, the increasing interest of international institutions on civil society organizations has helped them in their growth in terms of numbers and effectiveness level on the society (Kaldor, 2003). From a political perspective, in our globalized world today both in developed and developing countries gaining the support of the civil society has become critical for governments to ensure their legitimacy. Therefore both at national and international level the overall environment for civil society organizations are more favourable compared with the 1980s and 1990s. Despite positive developments on the status and working programs, civil society organizations are also not free from flaws and weaknesses such as some of these groups do not often consult to their members and are isolated from their audience (Mendelson and Glenn, 2002). Many civil society organizations also suffer from the lack of transparency especially in their financial issues (Clark, et al. 2003).

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