Civil society organisations (CSOs) have played an important role in reducing poverty levels in West Africa. However, civil society in the region suffers from challenges at the internal, national, and international levels. At the internal level, many CSOs suffer from a lack of staff with the technical, financial, research, and leadership skills needed to effectively implement the programmes they want. Many also lack organisational and financial sustainability and are dependent on donor funds. At the national level, some West African countries do not provide an enabling legal and political environment to civil society, and CSOs may lack the capacity to effectively engage in policy debate.
Despite the strides that could be made with a commitment to capacity building for West African CSOs, an additional challenge at the international level is a growing reluctance among donor organisations to fund capacity building initiatives. Furthermore, of those donor organisations that do provide for capacity building, some do not take into account factors such as power imbalances, conflicts of interest, or the need for follow-up and holistic services.
This paper summarises lessons about capacity building in the region learnt by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), including questions both funders and CSOs should ask themselves and each other before embarking on any capacity building programme.
Praxis Note 67. Survival is not enough: Building capacity of a thriving civil society in West Africa