Highlighted results

5,968 organisations supported in more than 60 countries

3,284 organisations are now stronger lobbyists

Thousands of activities to place human rights on the agenda

488 laws, policies or norms implemented strengthening inclusive and sustainable development


In large parts of the world, poverty is decreasing, more children are going to school and hygiene and health standards are improving. At the same time, justice and democracy are under pressure in many countries. The gap between the rich and poor is widening and critical voices are being silenced. For example, countries increasingly apply strict laws that make it difficult for journalists and human rights defenders to criticise the government or companies.

The Netherlands invests in civil society organisations to counter this trend and to stand up for the rights and interests of marginalized and discriminated groups. We support civil society organisations, such as women's, human rights, trade union and environmental organisations, in strengthening people’s voices. They inform and mobilise people and serve as bridge builders between minorities, companies and authorities. We also support these organisations in their role as watchdogs, holding governments, businesses and communities accountable to promote values, implement laws and respect rights that foster an inclusive and sustainable society.

Civil society organisations are important partners to the Netherlands in our policy. They play a crucial role in development processes. Under this theme, the results achieved under the policy framework Dialogue and Dissent are central. Dialogue and Dissent explicitly aims to strengthen civil society and the political role of civil society organisations in low- and lower middle-income countries.

Results 2018

The Netherlands supports 5,968 organisations in more than 60 countries. Since the start of Dialogue and Dissent in 2016, at least 9,000 initiatives have taken place to better inform and mobilise people, influence agenda setting, and engage in dialogues with authorities and businesses. In 2017-2018, this has contributed to 933 laws, policies and norms being influenced that strengthen inclusive and sustainable development.

These results affect the lives of millions of people as they are long-term structural changes. The laws, policies and norms that have been influenced provide people with a better foothold and more opportunities to build a good life. For example, the position of women, young people and minorities is gradually improving thanks to organisations that inform them of their rights and stand up for their interests. They are increasingly represented within local communities, but also in national and international fora.

These changes offer better prospects for people in developing countries and bring stability and security, which benefits society both here and there.

Result areas

Investing in change makers On the road to change Improved laws and behaviour

Featured project strengthening civil society

On the road to change: child marriage in Ghana

How does social change happen? How are new social norms formed in a society? And how can you contribute to the changes you would like to see for yourself or others in your community? These questions were asked by three documentary filmmakers when they visited the Girls Advocacy Alliance (including Plan Nederland) in Ghana, Uganda and the Philippines.

This report on combating child marriage in Ghana shows all facets of the political role of civil society organisations. The viewer is included in conversations with young women about their current situation and their hopes for the future of their children. The report also discusses working with traditional and religious leaders and the small steps that are being taken on the road to change.

Investing in change makers

Young people raise their voice for peace through a video project in Kyrgyzstan. Source: Foundation for Tolerance International (FTI) and GPPAC.

Strong civil society organisations and human rights defenders worldwide

The Netherlands is committed to openness, transparency and reaching the SDGs. It therefore invests in the power of people and organisations worldwide, such as human rights defenders, environmentalists and journalists, to raise their voices and stand up for a sustainable and inclusive world.

We fund 25 international alliances in a range of fields, including women's rights, conflict prevention, nature conservation and fair trade. These alliances support the political role of local activists and organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and elsewhere, enabling them to inform people about their rights and represent the interests of excluded groups. They do this, for example, by engaging in dialogues with the government, businesses or religious leaders.

Open result area

Young people raise their voice for peace through a video project in Kyrgyzstan. Source: Foundation for Tolerance International (FTI) and GPPAC.

The Netherlands invests in the lobby and advocacy capacities of civil society organisations to enable them to bring about social, political and economic change needed for inclusive and sustainable societies. In 2017-2018, almost 6,000 civil society organisations in more than 60 countries were supported in various themes. More than 3,000 of them have become demonstrably stronger in fulfilling their political roles.

Defending human rights requires knowledge, skills and courage. In an increasing number of countries people are being threatened and prosecuted when their interests do not align with the agenda of power holders. The space for people and organisations to raise their voice, organize themselves and hold governments and businesses accountable is shrinking. Therefore active and strategic support to civil society organizations is now more crucial than ever.

One example of a supported organisation is the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC). Through their network of hundreds of local organisations they work on peace and security around the world. Another example is United Disabled People in Kenya (UDPK) which helps people living with a disability gain a voice in national and local politics in order to defend their interests.



Number of civil society organisations worldwide supported by the Netherlands


On track


Through 25 international alliances, the Netherlands supports various civil society organisations, ranging from international networks and larger NGOs, such as Oxfam Novib and Action Aid, to local environmental organisations, trade unions and small organisations led by marginalised groups. The alliances each focus on their own theme, such as women's rights, peace and security or fair trade. Sometimes they join forces in the pursuit of overarching goals, such as defending civic space and the freedom of speech.


Number of civil society organisations that have become demonstrably stronger in terms of lobby and advocacy capacities


On track


One of the most important objectives of Dialogue and Dissent is to promote the political role of civil society organisations. This means strengthening them in their knowledge and skills of how to represent their constituencies, how to conduct research and how to engage with governments and companies.

The Peace Corner

The Peace Corner

GPPAC is a network of hundreds of civil society organisations and thousands of activists who work day and night for peace and security in their regions.

In the Peace Corner podcast peace activists introduce themselves to a wider audience. They talk about the conflicts that concern them, the way in which they try to generate change and their personal motivations.

In episode 6, peace activists from Korea, the Philippines and Colombia talk about the importance of dialogue in combating polarisation, both between different groups of people and between generations. The value of GPPAC's network, which enables organisations and activists to share lessons from different regions, becomes apparent.

The Peace Corner

Podcast by passionate, young people who contribute in their own way to peace in their country.

Women with disabilities in Kenya stand up for their rights

Women with disabilities in Kenya stand up for their rights

In Kenya, women with disabilities often experience discrimination. They are excluded from participation in daily life, the labour market and politics. In addition, they often have very limited access to health care and are subjected to (sexual) violence more frequently than average.

With Dutch support, UDPK invests in the capacity (primarily women) with disabilities. This increases their participation in society and reduces discrimination and inequality. With the help of UDPK, the local government is being lobbied for better health care and appropriate treatment for women living with disabilities.

In addition, UDPK advocates at national and local level for the right to fair participation and representation in politics. UDPK also trains women in six districts, who wish to take on a leadership role in promoting the rights and interests of people living with disabilities in local politics.

Amplifying Voices of Women with Disabilities in Kenya

A brief description of the programme aimed at the political participation of women with disabilities in Kenya.

On the road to change

A colourful protest by a young woman in Kenya. Source: Youth Action Network Kenya.

Lobby and Advocacy initiatives

In recent years, civil society organisations supported by the Netherlands have contributed in many different and successful ways to changes that foster inclusive and sustainable development. They have brought inequality and human rights violations to the attention of authorities or the general public through, for example, research, meetings and media attention. They have engaged in constructive dialogue with governments, businesses and traditional or religious leaders to support them in taking their responsibilities. In case dialogues fail to deliver results, civil society organisations have also pressured decision-makers through demonstrations or public campaigns.

Open result area

A colourful protest by a young woman in Kenya. Source: Youth Action Network Kenya.

In 2017-2018, more than 4,000 initiatives took place to put inclusivity and sustainability issues on the agenda. Civil society organisations managed to create space to raise their demands and influence government authorities, businesses or societal actors at least 1,762 times.

One example is the work of the Partners for Resilience (PfR) alliance in Kenya, which has drawn attention to the negative impact of a large infrastructure project on local communities and the environment. Another example is the collaboration between the Shared Resources Joint Solutions (SRJS) alliance and local fishermen in Benin to protect both fishing grounds and mangroves.



Number of lobby and advocacy initiatives


On track


Lobby and advocacy initiatives come in many shapes and sizes: from an international public campaign to a meeting in a local community, an intervention during a United Nations meeting or a demonstration on the street. All of these methods can contribute to influencing public and political opinion, which ultimately generates social change.


Number of occasions in which people’s voices have been heard


On track


The number of times that civil society organisations have placed issues on the agenda, influenced the debate and/or joined decision-making processes is an important indicator of sustainable change. Whether it concerns political decision-making, business deals or practices of local leaders, it is important to involve and hear the people concerned. This is the only way to achieve sustainable solutions that do justice to all those involved.

The impact of a large dam in Kenya

Many countries are investing in large infrastructure projects to strengthen their economic position. However, they often have (unintended) negative consequences.

In Kenya, the PfR (including The Red Cross) is addressing the negative effects of the LAPSSET Corridor Project, which aims to improve connections between various East African countries and stimulate economic growth. Research by the alliance and local communities shows that the dam anticipated in this project is likely to seriously impede the flow of water to downstream areas. This will have a major impact on local shepherds, farmers and wildlife.

The PfR brings communities, local authorities and businesses together and supports them in engaging in dialogue. As a result, the development of the dam has been temporarily suspended. In this way, the implications of this mega-project can be further investigated and measures can be taken that respect affected communities and nature.

Caravan with a purpose

Report on the impact of a potential dam in Kenya and the protest movement of downstream communities.

More sustainable fishing due to drones in Benin

More sustainable fishing due to drones in Benin

The 'acadja' method of fishing has been used in Benin for more than a century. Mangrove wood is used to construct enclosed fish breeding grounds. Residents around Lake Nokoué are dependent on this form of fishing. However, due to the high number of acadjas, surrounding mangrove forests are destroyed and water quality is deteriorating, both causing declining fish stocks.

Shared Resources Joint Solutions (IUCN NL and WWF) is working on improvements with the local organisation Benin Education and Environment Society. First and foremost, awareness among the local fishing families is being raised. At the same time, the government is being supported in enforcing the rules. Drone images map out the lake, so they can see exactly where the acadjas are located and where the rules are being violated. The fishers take their own responsibility by using the drone images to make agreements with each other about the placement of the acadjas. At the same time, alternative methods for sustainable fishing are explored in collaboration with the government.

Involving communities to adopt sustainable fishing methods

Article by the Shared Resources Joint Solutions alliance on its work in Benin.

Improved laws and behaviour

Boys listening to a talk of local women on nutritution, hygiene and anticonception in Bangladesh.

Legislation, policies and norms for more inclusive and sustainable development

Social change aimed at inclusive and sustainable societies is a long-term process. Thanks to Dutch support, civil society organisations are able to play an important role in this, which has yielded results in various areas. For example, governments have improved their laws or implemented existing laws as a result of advice or pressure from civil society organisations. The same applies to the behaviour and policies of companies, for example to combat the exploitation of workers. In addition, societal groups have started to think and act differently, for example about the rights of women and girls.

Open result area

Boys listening to a talk of local women on nutritution, hygiene and anticonception in Bangladesh.

In 2017-2018, 488 laws, policies and norms were influenced by civil society organisations to strengthen inclusive and sustainable development. In addition, civil society organisations influenced 933 laws, policies and norms to ensure compliance with inclusive and sustainable standards.

In Indonesia, for example, the Civic Engagement Alliance (CEA) works with the government, businesses and trade unions to ensure compliance of international standards prohibiting child labour.



Number of laws, policies and norms influenced by civil society organisations for inclusive and sustainable development


On track


In some cases, lobby and advocacy initiatives have led to the adoption of laws, policies and norms that strengthen inclusive and sustainable development. In other cases, harmful laws, policies and norms have been blocked or improved to better address the rights and concerns of those involved. Influencing laws, policies and norms is a long-term process to which many different organisations and people contribute.


Number of laws, policies and norms implemented for inclusive and sustainable development


On track


Inclusive and sustainable laws, policies and norms are important, but they are only effective if they are implemented, applied, and enforced. Civil society organisations fulfil an essential role in this respect by holding governments, businesses and communities accountable for living up to their responsibilities and commitments.

An end to child labour in the palm oil sector

Child labour is very common in Indonesia's largest sector, the palm oil sector. Although national legislation and international standards prohibit child labour, it is estimated that 1.5 million children between the ages of 10 and 17 work in this sector. Both companies and the Indonesian government want to change this situation. Companies want to do business in a socially responsible way and the government wants to eradicate child labour by 2022.

The CEA (including ICCO) cooperates with local trade unions, civil society organisations and companies to realise these ambitions. Agreements have been made on respecting human and children's rights on plantations. 'Child-friendly villages' have been established on Sumatra, where children receive support and are protected against violence and exploitation.

In this short report, 'The voice of workers in palm oil - child friendly villages', we follow Misran Lubisan employee of the Indonesian organisation PKPA, who is committed to combating child labour.

Civic Engagement Alliance (CEA) in Indonesia

News and background information on the CEA's work in Indonesia.

Young people gearing up for change in Honduras

Young people gearing up for change in Honduras

Human rights are being violated in Honduras. Women's and LGBTI rights are often the first to be repressed when conflict arises. For example, abortion is a criminal offence and the morning-after pill has been banned since 2009. At the same time, space for citizens to stand up for their rights is shrinking.

Right Here Right Now (including the Rutgers Foundation) supports young people who fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights of LGBTI people, young people and women. Young people demonstrating on the streets, becoming politically active and working constructively to change the oppressive system. For example, they advocated for a non-discrimination law to protect LGBTI people. While this led to changes in the penal code, they were reversed shortly afterwards.

Despite such setbacks, violated rights, and shrinking civic space, young people in Honduras are determined to continue to fight. Dressed up as clowns - a symbol of honesty and protest- they are taking part in silent and active protests. Their protest will continue until their rights are secured.

Background information theme strengthening civil society


A strong civil society is, together with a legitimate and effective government and responsible businesses, key for a sustainable and inclusive society. Civil society organizations raise the voice of citizens and represent them. Through lobby and advocacy civil society organization hold governments and businesses accountable for implementing the SDGs, adhering human rights standards and strengthening the relationship between state and citizens. At the same time, civil society organizations ask attention for prevailing injustices and unequal power relations. Civil society organizations are, however, increasingly limited in doing their work. Worldwide civic space is shrinking. In more than a hundred countries, the freedom of association, assembly and speech have been restricted. This harms civil society organizations as such and their work, such as fighting for gender equality, environmental protection or stopping corruption. The Netherlands therefore supports civic society in its independent role and pledges for more space for civil society organizations organizations to fulfil their important role.

Glimpse into the future

The focus on 'southern' ownership will become even stronger in the new policy framework for civil society organisations (publication summer 2019). The increasing pressure on civil society organization asks for an approach that suits the local situation and in which local organisations in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia will decide more strongly which subjects they wish to address and how. Dutch and international organizations are expected to take on a complementary role and support their partners through knowledge exchange and strengthening their international networks. In this way, the Netherlands aims to contribute to more equal power relations between organisations from different countries. Moreover, the chance of successful and lasting change is greater if people and organisations at a local level are the driving force behind it.

In addition, the new framework will have a more explicit focus on countering the worrying trend of shrinking space for civil society organisations, social movements and human rights defenders.

Over the past year, the assumptions behind Dialogue and Dissent Theory of Change have been researched. The outcomes confirm the current setup of the policy framework with its focus on lobby and advocacy combined with a flexible approach to programming, monitoring and evaluation. It also confirms the importance of the aforementioned shift to more equal power relations in the new framework.

Additional sources

Policy document

Dialogue and Dissent policy framework. (Dutch)

Assumptions underlying Dialogue and Dissent

Six studies on the assumptions underlying the Dutch policy ‘Dialogue and Dissent’ on supporting the political role ofcivil society organisations. Published by NWO-WOTRO and Include.

Evaluation of strategic partnerships

Ongoing evaluation of the functioning of strategic partnerships between civil society organisations and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Carried out by IOB.

Expenditure by channel