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Author: Luca De Fraia, Co-Chair, CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE)


There is increasing momentum on advancing local leadership in development co-operation. This year’s OECD-DAC Civil Society Days were an important moment to take stock on progress and challenges. 

Delegates from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and development practitioners from all quarters met in Paris in mid-June at the OECD-DAC Civil Society Days, which take place every two years. The space for CSO leadership in development co-operation was high on the agenda with a focus on the implementation of the DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society from 2021 and, more specifically, on localisation. Many CPDE members took part in different capacities; for instance, bringing to Paris our most recent reflections on equitable partnerships as captured in the report on CSOs’ effectiveness and the Implications of Istanbul Principles as well as the DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society.


Localisation as democratic ownership

The effectiveness agenda offers a unique framework for placing the ongoing discussions on localisation in a particularly productive context. It is, in fact, important to learn how to connect the dots, as there are now many initiatives pushing in similar directions including the Grand BargainRINGO and the DAC Recommendation itself. All these pieces belong to the same thread: localisation is about democratic ownership as it places the interests of right-holders and local communities at the centre of development. This speaks directly to the effectiveness agenda and to the CSOs’ own effectiveness, including the Istanbul Principles.

CPDE’s perspective on localisation goes beyond the mere transfer of resources to the local organisations of partner countries. We call for a shift in the discourse towards locally-led development that implies that the interests and the priorities of local communities must inform all the stages of development activities. At the OECD-DAC Civil Society Days, practitioners gauged progress towards this goal by reviewing best practices by development partners and diving into technical discussions such as a taxonomy for localisation, and aid under authoritarian regimes.


Key challenges on localisation

Within this broad tent, a few key challenges really resonated. Risk is surely one of these: are development partners ready to take greater risks when supporting the leading role of local organisations, which, in many cases, might be working in more challenging operational contexts and with a different organisational culture? Discussions in Paris highlighted that the development partners’ authorising environment may still have the last word.

Another big issue is the relationship between local organisations in partner countries and Northern-based, as well as international, CSOs. CPDE looks at this challenge from the angle of the Istanbul Principles for CSO Effectiveness; exploring this critical concern for the past ten years by soliciting progress and tracking best practices. Our perspective is that the effectiveness agenda provides the right framework to ensure local leadership, and value the role that CSOs can play at all levels, in a spirit of global solidarity.


Tracking progress and promoting action on localisation through the GPEDC monitoring exercise

The GPEDC has a prominent role to play in all of this. Localisation was clearly featured in the Geneva High-Level Summit of December 2022 with a session on localising development cooperation and reaching the furthest behind, and the announcement of the Donor Statement on Supporting Locally Led Development. The Geneva Outcome Document speaks clearly on localisation by, for instance, acknowledging locally-owned and -led development. Looking forward, the new round of the GPEDC monitoring exercise offers unique opportunities to gather evidence about the extent to which local leadership drives development processes, be it national governments or local organisations. CPDE membership is committed to supporting this effort by the GPEDC, both when collecting data and using data, through, for instance, effective action dialogues in partner countries.



CPDE is a platform that unites CSOs from around the world on the issue of effective development co-operation and – through the Coordination Committee – represents CSOs in the Steering Committee of the GPEDC. More information can be found on the platform’s website.

On the author: Luca De Fraia is the Deputy Secretary General of ActionAid Italy. He has been an active member of CPDE since the Partnership’s inception, representing the international CSO sector and providing support for CPDE’s objectives especially related to policy and alliance building with other relevant CSO networks in the area of financing for development. He is also a member of the CPDE Coordination Committee. Luca has been deeply committed to and involved in emerging, technical issues such as the Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF). Since 2017, he heads the TOSSD (Total Official Support for Sustainable Development) Task Force of the DAC-CSO Reference Group, and is active in discussions around financing for development.