A Kenyan CSO Perspective: Gains from the Nairobi Outcome Document

Kenyan CSOs attended the official HLM2 days with a delegation of 120. Civil society representatives led and participated in the planning of all plenaries, as well as numerous amphitheaters and side-events. Some also spoke in panels and in interventions from the floor. CSO representatives raised their voices and chanted their messages in collective action and made formal submissions to all versions of the Nairobi Outcome Document. All this was done so that, with one united voice, the Kenyan CSO key asks were heard.

Kenyan Civil Society Organizations were calling for:

  1. The creation of a facilitative and conducive environment for the growth of CSOs in the country and for their operations.
  2. The establishment of an administrative and regulatory framework within which CSOs can conduct their affairs without the current punitive and crippling unfair administrative actions by the regulator as envisioned in the PBO Act 2013.
  3. The establishment of mechanisms that give meaningful protection to the internationally-recognised freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and the right to organise that are essential for the proper functioning of CSOs in making their contribution to development processes.
  4. Provision of registration procedures, which are transparent, and which will facilitate the establishment of CSOs, while at the same time safeguarding freedom of association.
  5. Establishment of mechanism that facilitates government collaboration with CSOs, including funding of CSO activities and the involvement of the sector in the implementation of government projects.
  6. Inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue linked to a strong enabling legal and regulatory environment for CSOs.
  7. Strong public participation on legislative processes that require governments to engage with the public, including CSOs, on laws and public policy-making; noting that such legal framework would set requirements to ensure adequate notice and opportunity to participate, encourage, or require public institutions to invite CSO representatives onto advisory or decision-making bodies; and also ensure diverse representation from the civil society sector.
  8. Access to information is key for effective multi-stakeholder dialogue. While we congratulate the Kenyan government for passing the Access to Information Act 2016, implementation is the next important step which should be consultative and in line with the spirit of the Act. We urge the government to remove practical road blocks that undermine CSOs access to the correct requested information on a timely basis.
  9. Government to enhance their efforts to implement development effectiveness. Kenyan Civil Society is committed to supporting these efforts.
  10. A transparent government budget-making process that is participatory and gender-responsive, strong public financial management systems, and mutual accountability mechanisms that ensure governments are accountable to their citizens for achieving their gender equality commitments.
  11. The national parliament to pass the 2/3rds Gender Bill, the Health Bill, and the Reproductive Health Care Bill.
  12. Enhancement of the country’s development ownership processes and the role of domestic resource mobilization in achieving Agenda 2030.
  13. The immediate implementation of the Public Benefit Organisations Act that has been in abeyance since 2013 when the law was enacted to create the much needed enabling and facilitative environment for CSOs in Kenya.

Gains from the Nairobi Outcome Document

There were some gains that were actually made possible through the hosting of the government of Kenya, which oriented the negotiations of the Nairobi Outcome Document (NOD) in the spirit of partnership. Through its leadership, stronger language on gender equality, women’s empowerment, and youth’s role in development was made possible.

The Nairobi Outcome Document recognized that implementing previous commitments is central to moving forward with the effective development cooperation agenda. It commits to reverse the trend of shrinking and closing civic spaces and help develop the full potential of CSOs to contribute to effective development. It also advanced the role of the GPEDC in implementing existing effectiveness commitments, as well as advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Despite these achievements, there are concerns about the absence of references to democratic ownership as a shared action agreed in the Busan Partnership Agreement, the dilution of civil society’s role in holding governments accountable (Para. 41f), and the lack of emphasis on the importance of each country’s ownership of its own economic and social development (Para. 36). Further, the lack of clarity of purpose – i.e., eradicating poverty and reducing inequality – in the use of international public finance for private sector development (Para 23) is still alarming. CSOs in Kenya intend to follow up on these concerns in the GPEDC.

Kenyan CSOs worked hard and hand in hand with their global counterparts throughout the process, and in the conclusion of the HLM2 achieved some significant commitments from the Partnership that can be used as a basis for holding all the Parties of GPEDC accountable, including themselves. Beyond the HLM2, Kenyan CSOs commit to applying the language and spirit of the NOD to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals and address country realities. Kenyan CSOs will continue to be guided by the commitments made in the NOD as well as by the Istanbul Principles on CSO Development Effectiveness.