“Civil society” is a broad term which has varying definitions but can cover a number of different actors within countries including local community groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), faith-based organizations, women’s groups, adolescent and youth groups, social movements, trade unions, professional associations and academia. Civil society organizations (CSOs) perform a number of different functions described in other sections in this Operational Framework, including in the sections on community engagement, accountability and health systems. In doing so they directly contribute to all of the ingredients for action of this Operational Framework.

Key functions include, but are not limited to:

  • advocacy and political participation
  • social mobilization for both participation in governance and behaviour change
  • direct provision of health and other social services
  • raising financial and other resources
  • engagement and outreach to marginalized populations in difficult environments
  • social accountability
  • social innovation
  • undertaking research and analysis
  • providing training and capacity building
  • challenging legal or commercial interests where these conflict with health.

However, the contribution of civil society within countries is often under-recognized and/or poorly aligned with health efforts by other stakeholders. While part of the essential nature of civil society is to challenge existing policy and programmes to better serve communities, better engagement with the diverse range of CSOs can help to improve health outcomes.

Supporting civil society engagement in multi-stakeholder platforms (including country platforms for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health) is crucial to realizing the potential of CSOs to contribute to the health of women, children and adolescents. Increased resources, support and technical assistance are required to build the capacity of civil society to meaningfully engage in multi-stakeholder country platforms, to support social accountability and to ensure active citizen engagement in available and created spaces. Lack of political will and funding remain barriers to significant civil society engagement and successful citizen empowerment in many countries.

ùOne model for increased CSO funding at country level is the Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF), utilized for strengthening country engagement as part of the SUN Movement (see box). Funded at just over US$10 million by three donors (DFID, Irish Aid and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation), the SUN Movement MPTF has provided support for civil society engagement and activities, learning across countries as well as monitoring and evaluation.


The Multi-Partner Trust Fund: A catalytic instrument to support SUN efforts

The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) was established in March 2012 to provide catalytic grants for the development and implementation of actions for scaling up nutrition. It was a fund open to governments, UN agencies, civil society groups, other SUN partners and support organizations, but the vast majority of funds was allocated to support civil society participation and catalytic actions for scaling up nutrition.

Since 2012, donors have contributed to the SUN Movement MPTF with a total deposit of USD 10,072,740. As of December 2014 the Management Committee of the SUN Movement MPTF allocated a total of USD 8,951,172 (approximately 89% of the total deposits) to 3 ‘Windows’:

  • Window I – Support for initial SUN actions at country level: USD 642,000 for a project to develop a learning and sharing programme across stakeholders of the SUN Movement
  • Window II – Catalytic programmes for countries: USD 7,393,172 for 23 projects to support in-country civil society participation and actions for scaling up nutrition and USD 856,000 to support the costs of the Secretariat of the SUN Civil Society Network
  • Window III – Support for global SUN strategic efforts: USD 60,000 for one project to develop the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework of the SUN Movement.

The SUN Movement MPTF support for civil society engagement at country level is aligned with a detailed logframe and Theory of Change behind a goal of ‘sustained public, political and financial commitment and action to effectively tackle undernutrition in SUN countries.’

The Independent Comprehensive Evaluation of the SUN Movement, published in 2015, while not an in-depth evaluation of the MPTF, concluded that the projects funded through the SUN Movement MPTF have been highly relevant to the four strategic objectives of the SUN Movement. Several challenges of the SUN Movement MPTF were also highlighted by the evaluation team, mainly regarding its efficiency and sustainability. However they concluded that there may be a continued need for a global fund for some time to come. This is mainly due to the barriers and inadequate bilateral funding opportunities currently available for Civil Society Alliances (CSAs) in country. There is an evaluation of the MPTF currently underway.

Source: UNDP. 2014 Annual Report of the SUN Movement Multi-Partner Trust Fund