Civil Society

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Stakeholder Relations

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) — composed of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), faith-based groups, trade unions, indigenous people’s organizations, community groups, and foundations, among others — have emerged as a major force in international development in the past 30 years. 

The World Bank Group has been working to strengthen its engagement with civil society since 1981, when its first operational policy note on relations with NGOs was approved by the World Bank’s Board of Directors.

Interaction with CSOs

The Bank interacts with hundreds of CSOs every day throughout the world, engaging with them through information sharing, policy dialogue, strategy consultation, operational collaboration, and institutional partnerships. 

There are over 120 communications professionals in the Bank’s Washington, DC Headquarters, and in over 100 country offices, that act as Civil Society Focal Points responsible for engaging CSOs from the local to the global levels. There is also the Global Civil Society Team located in the Bank’s External and Corporate Relations Department that coordinates the overall engagement and relationship management with CSOs. The scope and intensity of this engagement necessarily varies depending on the nature of the development area and institutional context of each country. 

Some examples of engagement are below.

  • Policy Dialogue and Consultations
    There has been a significant growth in the number of CSO representatives attending the Annual and Spring Meetings of the  World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund. They participate in the Civil Society Policy Forum which includes a CSO Roundtable with Executive Directors, Townhall with the President of the World Bank Group, and a Civil Society Forum with over 40 policy dialogue sessions mostly organized by CSOs.
  • Operational Collaboration and Institutional Partnerships
    The Bank has steadily increased its operational collaboration with civil society organizations by involving them in Bank funded projects and by funding their development initiatives. The project development of CSOs in Bank financed projects has increased from 21% in 1990 to 88% in FY 2015.
Definition of Civil Society
The World Bank Group has adopted the following definition of civil society developed by a number of leading research centers: “the term civil society to refer to the wide array of non-governmental and not for profit organizations that have a presence in public life, express the interests and values of their members and others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations.”




There are a wide variety of grant funding sources for CSOs who work worldwide. This section provides links to World Bank Group funding for CSOs.

  • The Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) is the largest funding mechanism the Bank has for CSOs. It was established in 2012 with the purpose of bridging the accountability gap between citizens and governments. The GPSA is based on constructive engagement between governments and civil society in order to create an enabling environment in which citizen feedback is used to solve fundamental problems in service delivery and to strengthen the performance of public institutions. Learn more about funding opportunities through GPSA.
  • The Bank also funds CSOs indirectly through governments via mechanisms such as Community Driven Development (CDD) projects.  These support a variety of local development activities such as rural development, community health, water delivery, HIV/AIDS prevention, and small enterprise development.  The Bank estimates that some 5% of the Bank's annual portfolio, or $1 billion dollars, is channeled to these country-based funds. Community-driven development (CDD) is an approach that gives control over planning decisions and investment resources for local development projects to community groups.
  • In addition, in the execution of World Bank projects, several CSOs have successfully bid and been awarded contracts to execute components of World Bank projects in support of the development objectives of our client countries
  • The Bank also provides grants to local nonprofits who provide charitable and social services in the Washington metropolitan area, or to international NGOs who support community development efforts, human rights, and environmental protection worldwide through its Community Connections Program.

See below for additional links to information for funding resources for CSOs.


World Bank - Civil Society Engagement Review:

Fiscal Years 2010 -2012 Full Report (English)  
Executive Summary - Arabic Executive Summary - Chinese Executive Summary - French
Executive Summary - Spanish Executive Summary - Russian  


Fiscal Years 2007 - 2009 Full Report (English) Executive Summary (English)
Executive Summary - Arabic Executive Summary - Chinese Executive Summary - French
Executive Summary - Spanish Executive Summary - Russian Executive Summary - Turkish


Report  Year
Engaging citizens through mediation in Kaduna State, Nigeria 2016
Civil society, public action and accountability in Africa 2011
Engagement with civil society : an EITI implementation case study 2009
Guidance note on Bank multi-stakeholder engagement 2009
Civil society and peacebuilding : potential, limitations and critical factors 2007
Consultations with civil society: a sourcebook 2007
Issues and options for improving engagement between the World Bank and civil society organizations 2005
Consultations with civil society : a sourcebook 2004
Guide to resources for NGOs and other organizations of civil society 2003
Civil society organisations and the poor: the unfulfilled expectations 2002
Working together: the World Bank's partnership with civil society 2000
Consultations with civil society organizations : general guidelines for World Bank staff 2000
The Bank’s Relations with NGOs: Issues and Directions 1998
Assessing aid - what works, what doesn't, and why 1998


World Bank–Civil Society Engagement Review of Fiscal Years 2010–12

World Bank–Civil Society Engagement Review of Fiscal Years 2010–12

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