Civil society

Civil society

Civil society organisations (including NGOs) are vital partners for decision-makers, as they are best placed to know population's needs in terms of development. In Europe as well as in third countries, EuropeAid is using innovative approaches to improve its dialogue with these organisations.

The role of civil society organisations/Non-State Actors is growing from being implementing partners to sharing more responsibility with the state on poverty reduction, as the developing countries claim ownership of their own development.


The European Commission outlines new proposals on how to better engage with civil society


The European Commission has adopted a new Communication on how to work more effectively with civil society organisations (CSOs) in developing, Neighbourhood and partner countries. The proposals include guidelines on working with governments and public institutions to ensure the creation of a more conducive, fair and democratic environment for civil society groups to operate in; enabling them to help more of the world's poorest and vulnerable people as a result.

"Consultation on the future EU policy on "Civil Society Organisations in development cooperation"
The European Commission launched an online consultation to seek the views of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other stakeholders on the future policy of the EU with regard to support to CSOs in partner countries in the field of development cooperation.


What is a Non-State Actor?

Non-State Actors (including Civil Society Organisations):

  • gather the main structures of organised society outside government and public administration;
  • are independent of the state;
  • often result of grass-roots initiatives seeking to bring social changes;
  • are active in different fields (poverty reduction, emergency, Human Rights, environment etc.)

Non-State Actors encompass non governmental organisations, grassroots organisations, cooperatives, trade unions, professional associations, universities, media and independent foundations. Their common feature lies in their independence from the State and the voluntary basis upon which they have come together to act and promote common interests.

In general, only non-profit Non-State Actors are eligible for EU grants. To have an overview of EuropeAid support to civil society, please also consult the page civil society & local authorities.

 For definitions and more information:

• Communication on the participation of Non State Actors in development policy (Article 1.2)
• Revised Cotonou partnership agreement (Article 6)
• Financing Instrument of Cooperation and Development (Article 24.2)
• European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (Article 10)


Role of EuropeAid

The European Commision has defined its vision of Non-State Actors involvement in development cooperation and the major steps to which they need to take part. This involvement is no longer limited to a participation in service delivery, but aims at strengthening the capacity of Non-State Actors to become key actors of democratic governance processes.

EuropeAid is, moreover, a contact point in Brussels with the many networks, platforms, confederations and other civil society organisations involved in EU decision-making. Dialogue is continuous between the European Institutions and civil society. In 2010, EuropeAid has played a major role in dealing with civil society with the re-launching of the Structured Dialogue, (previously called Palermo Process).

Different dialogue tools have been set up by EuropeAid to improve collaboration and to share information on implementing development aid with civil society.