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POGAR > What We Do > Participation > Civil Society

Civil society organizations (CSOs) may provide checks on government power. In doing so, they may contribute to better governance by enhancing the accountability and transparency of the political system. The CSOs may also contribute to policy formulations, safeguard rights, articulate interests, and deliver social services. In doing so, they may enhance efficiency and participation in public affairs and strengthen the rule of law, other characteristics of good governance. Media institutions, for instance, have sometimes, where they enjoy reasonable freedom of expression, indeed become important vehicles of accountability, transparency, and participation, benefiting and representing the citizenry more effectively than the official legislative organs of government.

The CSOs discussed in the country articles include industry associations, trade unions, commercial associations, employers’ associations, professional associations, media institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and officially recognized human rights organizations. Political parties are also considered to be elements of civil society. For countries with multi-party systems, reference is made to the legal framework surrounding the operation of political parties. However, political parties, their platforms, and their parliamentary representation are treated in more detail in the articles on elections and electoral politics.

Most of the Arab countries offer a framework of laws on political and non-political associations, NGOs, private sector enterprises, and labor unions. In particular, the Associations Laws, Press Laws, and Political Party Laws in each country are examined. Umbrella organizations are listed, such as labor federations, chambers of commerce, and trade unions that play an important role not only in civil society, but also in political decision and policymaking.

The registration and licensing processes of associations and organizations in each country indicate the extent to which the freedom of association, protected by almost every constitution, is practiced. Regulation and oversight by the Ministry of Justice, for instance, is likely to be more transparent than processes controlled by the Ministry of the Interior. The country articles note the relevant cabinet offices, such as the Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Social Affairs, or the Ministry of Information and Culture. They also spell out the funding practices of CSOs defined by law. Wherever applicable and wherever information was available, the internal governance practices of the CSOs and emergency laws in a country are mentioned. Finally, the essays survey civic arrangements ordained by the constitution and a brief history of social and political reforms in a country, to the extent that they contribute directly to the positive development of state-civil society relations.

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Putting Our Work in Context
  • Human Development Report 1999 Globalization with a Human Face
  • Egypt’s Social Contract: The Role of Civil Society