Partnerships for Change

NCA has a mandate to strengthen civil society in all countries where it has a presence. Faith in Action, NCA’s global strategy, justifies this stating, “a robust and free civil society is a prerequisite for social justice, development of democracy, and good governance”. Partnering with civil society actors, including faith-based actors (FBA)s, is NCA’s main approach to fulfilling this mandate. In the programme period 2016-2018, Strengthening Civil Society was a cross-cutting issue, addressed within each of the six global programmes. Under the mandatory outcome, NCA core partners have increased their capacity as civil society actors, NCA’s country offices have also implemented a tailored partner capacity development programme.

NCA has also strengthened the vibrancy of civil society by equipping partners with the skills, outreach and networks needed to hold authorities accountable through contextually tailored advocacy initiatives. It has also increased coordination and cooperation with local and international members of the ACT Alliance, through national ACT forums and international arenas.

Key achievements: Strengthening faith-based actors

To strengthen a network of Muslim leaders and scholars in Afghanistan, NCA provided training on conflict transformation, conflict analysis, leadership, gender sensitivity, and advocacy. International exposure visits to Indonesia and Bosnia were organised for the religious leaders. As a result, the network is now engaged in conflict transformation on both local and national levels and is advocating for peace and co-existence in Afghanistan. The participation of women in this network, as well as in the national High Peace Council, is a remarkable achievement with great impact, as described in the Peacebuilding chapter.

Through consecutive dialogue forums and documentation of FBAs’ efforts in Ethiopia, NCA has supported the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia (IRCE) in becoming a key actor in reaching the government’s goal to end Female Genital Mutilation and child marriage by 2025. IRCE is currently serving as a steering committee member in the National Alliance for this purpose.

Afghan Development association

Partnerships for capacity development

During this period NCA has developed and implemented capacity development plans with selected core partner organisations in all countries. Plans were based on joint assessment and scoring exercises, using NCA’s Partnership Assessment Tool to map partners’ organisational, accountability, advocacy and financial capacities. Partners have been trained on issues such as conflict sensitivity/Do No Harm, gender sensitivity, security, technical best practices in all thematic programme areas, advocacy, GBV in emergencies, Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), fundraising, M&E, digital data collection and analysis, human resources and financial management. NCA’s capacity development model includes training by NCA staff members from country office (CO) or head office (HO), by external consultants, and by linking actors with a particular expertise, so called resource partners, to its core faith partners. All countries report substantial improvements in partners’ capacities as a result of this programme and some of these are showcased below.

In DRC, Haiti, Mali, Sudan and Afghanistan, NCA’s continuous support has enhanced the programmatic quality, monitoring capacities, legitimacy and credibility of partners. This has in turn enabled them to obtain funding from other donors, such as Oxfam, EUROPEAID, UNICEF, MINUSMA, Mercy Corps, UNDP and FAO. In Ethiopia and Guatemala, a successful strategy to attract new donors for partners has been to ensure the visibility of their work for other ACT agencies and institutional donors, and introducing them in different networks and forums.

To ensure gender balance and inclusion of women in Afghanistan, NCA have developed partners’ capacities on gender mainstreaming that have helped partners to conduct gender analysis and plan projects accordingly. 

Sound financial management is an expertise with high priority in NCA’s capacity development approach. NCA DRC decided to grant full bilateral partnership status to six “accompanied partners” (book-keeping conducted by NCA) in 2017. The decision was based on a diagnosis of the financial management capacity of all accompanied partners conducted in 2016. This progress was possible thanks to targeted accompaniment carried out by the NCA DRC finance team throughout the period. NCA partners in Pakistan have shown considerable improvement in financial reporting after trainings on financial management and installation of new finance management software. Other partners have improved the gender balance in their staff and rights holders’ participation in programme implementation.


Partnerships for a more vibrant civil society

Empowering civil society organisations (CSOs), faith actors and rights holders to advocate on behalf of marginalised and impoverished communities is a key mandate for NCA. Through provision of resources, training and networks for CSOs, NCA has supported these actors to strategically carrying out their mandate of holding duty bearers accountable on issues like transparent use of public resources and promoting social cohesion as a precondition for national development. Local community structures, including their elected volunteer members and leaders, are key target groups in all NCA’s thematic programmes. Such community groups are important building blocks for civil society and a starting point for building democratic communities, society and ultimately state. Where such structures were weak, or not in place, NCA has offered technical support to partners for the revitalisation and establishment of new groups.

Advocacy capacity development

In all countries with a WASH programme29 , NCA and partners have trained water management committees not only to manage water infrastructure, but also how to advocate for decision-makers to prioritise the needs of the communities. Increased participation of women in decision making has been promoted and achieved in all countries, Afghanistan, such committees are now in contact with local and provincial authorities to include their communities in the WASH priorities of the provincial development plans. In Climate Resilience programme countries30, community disaster risk management (DRM) task forces have been trained and successfully engage in advocacy on issues such as the implementation of climate adaptation plans.

In Burundi, NCA has carried out conflict sensitive advocacy capacity development for partners and rights holders. Through Reflect circles’ actions and task forces, government institutions and authorities have been challenged to improve their level of accountability towards the citizens. The Reflect methodology has also been used successfully by NCA and partners to raise awareness and mobilise community members in DRC, Mali and Somalia on topics such as adult literacy, numeracy, conflict resolution, GBV and human rights. This has resulted in, amongst other things, increased social cohesion, improved position and opportunities for women, enhanced local ownership, and programme sustainability.

In Angola NCA has enabled several partners and their constituencies to strategically engage with government authorities and the private sector for social change. Examples include ADRA, AML, AJPD and CICA, who can now organise themselves to influence the government to eliminate restrictive measures that hinder political and civil rights, and collaborate constructively with civil society and the private sector.

NCA Pakistan has facilitated partners’ linkages with other INGOs. Consequently, INGOs and local media rely on partners’ staff, especially their directors, as resource persons for relevant events and TV programmes. These linkages have increased partners’ visibility not only among other NGOs but also in the society at large and allowed them to share success stories from NCA funded projects in national media.


Advocacy networks and results

In Tanzania, Burundi and DRC, NCA has brought together key church leaders in the Side by Side movement, a faith movement promoting gender justice. This has led to faith actors introducing gender policies to making joint statements condemning gender-based violence.

In Haiti NCA’s partners have strengthened their coordination in project areas, sharing best practices and lessons learned, thanks to the NCA/LWF/DKH office facilitating workshops and other arenas for exchanging of experiences, and linking them up with larger civil society networks or platforms.

As part of the Malawi Network Against Trafficking (MNAT), NCA advocated for the development of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) National Action Plan that was approved and signed by the Head of State and launched in August 2017. To ensure TIP Act is effectively implemented, NCA and MNAT advocated for the operation and funding of the Trafficking Fund as required in the Act. The fund is now operational which will ensure that survivors of trafficking are adequately assisted and supported. NCA has also involved church leaders to play a stronger role in the fight against trafficking.

In Guatemala NCA facilitated working spaces and coordination for GBV programme partners (AGIMS, GGM, Ixmukané) through participation in the so-called Derivation Networks with Public and civil society actors aimed to improve the quality of the attention to survivors of GBV. This has led to an increase in women denouncing GBV and to ensuring translators when justice operators attend to indigenous women in the areas where the partners work.

Shrinking space for civil society

Despite increasingly shrinking space for CSOs in many countries, particularly those working on accountability and advocacy, NCA continues to seek contextually appropriate ways to support, accompany and strengthen civil society for active citizenship. In such contexts, NCA´s dialogue with, and support to, FBAs is particularly important, in part because they often have access to government representatives at all levels, combined with high levels of credibility.

In DRC CSOs, FBAs and independent media are crucial in mobilising the population and holding duty bearers accountable despite increasing pressure and oppression of any kinds of opposition. FBAs benefit from a high level of legitimacy and have a huge outreach with the capacity to advocate and mobilise people to claim their rights. NCA has played a key role in bringing together religious actors, independent media and other, non-religious CSOs and thus reinforcing the power of this movement.

The limited civil society landscape in Ethiopia, has affected NCA’s capacity to fully assume its role during the reporting period. The CSO legislation limited the opportunities to directly work on women and children’s rights, including issues that affect their health and wellbeing such as GBV and harmful practices, including FGM and child marriage. Advocacy, mobilisation and campaign activities are considered sensitive. The 30:70 administration to programme cost ratio directives constrained the internal capacity of CSOs to undertake ‘‘soft’’ component activities such as training and capacity building. To address challenges related to working on sensitive issues such as FGM, child marriage, and GBV, the country office has worked with FBOs leveraging on the possibilities for them to address such issues from a theological point of view. In some instances, NCA Ethiopia supported the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs with technical and financial backstopping in strengthening national and regional forums and during the commemoration of international days so that the issues could be addressed. Language use and framing was another way of working through sensitivities. In the first quarter of 2019 the Government changed the CSO law and the legal framework for NGOs in Ethiopia. The new law opens up for new opportunities and space for CSOs in the country.

The Government in Haiti (GOH) had a major crack-down on NGOs in 2017, following the Oxfam scandal, and ‘‘revoked the permission to operate’’ of all NGOs who had not submitted their planning to the Ministry in the last year. The Government also practically stopped granting tax exemption to NGOs, which negatively impacted NCA’s joint office’s importing of disaster relief materials. As part of the CLIO network of NGOs working in Haiti, NCA is part of a larger direct advocacy towards the GOH on behalf of the NGOs, particularly the Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation (MPCE). CLIO representatives meet regularly with MPCE and have been able to clarify policies and standard practices and are currently doing advocacy to show the GOH the amount that NGOs already contribute in terms of salary taxes for their employees.

In late 2018 the Burundi Government suspended INGO activities and announced four requirements for INGO registration. The most challenging of these was for INGOs to provide a baseline of the ethnic composition of its staff and a three-year plan for how to ensure a 60%-40% balance between Hutus and Tutsis respectively. The Burundi ACT Forum was a crucial arena to develop joint strategies and positions in this situation. Thanks to a good relationship with religious leaders that are closely linked to authorities who are also churches members, NCA and the ACT forum were uniquely positioned to contribute to resolve the crisis. The ACT forum also served as a link between authorities and the INGOs’ forum, RESO, for joint advocacy.

Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops

Partnerships for joint action

NCA is an active member of the national ACT forums in all countries it has a presence and such a forum exists, hosting the forum’s secretariat in many cases. ACT forums are an important meeting point for national and international ACT members to share information and coordinate through joint programme planning, capacity development of members and local partners, humanitarian interventions, research studies and advocacy efforts. Communication and cooperation is ensured through physical meetings as well as digital collaboration tools. Cooperation topics include security, climate change, GBV/Gender Justice, conflict sensitivity and the CHS. Several ACT forums have developed joint Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans and provided capacity building for all members on the same. This ensures that national ACT members can respond quickly in case of emergency, and allows the forums to access Rapid Response Funds from the ACT Alliance.

In South Sudan NCA has deepened its cooperation with ACT and Caritas agencies, working ecumenically in support for the South Sudan Council of Churches Action Plan for Peace. NCA’s commitment to coordinate humanitarian interventions is embodied in the collaboration with ACT Alliance and Caritas members, responding jointly to emergencies.

Together with Church of Sweden, NCA Tanzania took the initiative in 2017 to introduce the Waking the Giant Initiative as a joint project for the National ACT Forum. Tanzania is one of four pilot countries in this global ecumenical initiative to build the capacity of churches to contribute effectively to the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically SDGs 3, 4, 5, 10 and 16. Since its introduction, ACT members have carried out several joint activities related to SDGs 3 and 5. Waking the Giant is significant because it has provided the ACT Forum with a contextually relevant agenda for joint action. It also provides a platform to highlight FBAs’ considerable contributions to the SDGs and to strengthening links to relevant UN Agencies.

In Malawi, NCA’s GBV programme has collaborated with ACT Malawi Forum to develop the capacity of faith and traditional leaders to address early child marriages. With financial support from UN Women, NCA and the ACT forum have also built the capacity of faith leaders in Malawi to promote women’s participation in politics, and to ensure peaceful elections.

In Sudan, NCA works closely with ACT and Caritas, in response the Darfur crisis. The ACT/CARITAS network is a unique platform where two different church networks collaborate for a common goal in a single program.

NCA’s collaboration with ACT sister-agencies ranges from sharing office space and security measures to reduce operation costs (Burundi, DRC, Tanzania, Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia), to formally establishing joint country offices and staff for the implementation of joint country programmes (Guatemala, Haiti, Myanmar, Palestine, Zambia):

The NCA Palestine and Myanmar country programmes were merged with DanChurchAid (DCA) in the period 2016-2017 with DCA as the lead agency. By merging NCA and DCA, the country programmes has expanded in terms of volume, results and number of donors. NCA Haiti country programme was merged with Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Diakonie Katastrofenhilfe (DKH) in 2017. By merging the work of these three organisations the country programme in Haiti has improved its coordination, both regarding emergency preparedness and response, and long-term development programmes.

Similarly, the NCA Guatemala country programme has been gradually merged into the joint country programme Jotay ACTing Together (Jotay) in collaboration with five other ACT agencies (Christian Aid, Bread for the World, ICCO Cooperation, Church of Sweden and the Lutheran World Federation), since April 2017. Jotay has developed a joint country strategy for 2019-2022, supported by joint PMER systems, a funding strategy and an advocacy strategy. The share of each agency’s programmatic funds channelled through Jotay is growing each year, NCA having already reached 100%. The total volume of the Guatemala country programme has so far been tripled because of the joint programme.

All participating agencies contribute to the running costs and staff salary of these joint offices, which has reduced NCA’s admin costs in these countries substantially. The joint added value of these country programmes has also increased since NCA and the other ACT agencies have different thematic expertise and partners. In Palestine, NCA contributed with its WASH expertise and managed to develop a humanitarian project in Gaza in 2018 funded by Norwegian MFA. In Myanmar the GBV programme was brought into the joint programme by NCA, while DCA had several strong civil society partners due to their focus on active citizenship and human rights advocacy. In Guatemala, NCA contributes with expertise, experience and partners on GBV, climate resilience, clean energy and indigenous people’s rights. In Haiti NCA contributes with expertise and experience on WASH, that made possible the obtainment of a three year project funded by MFA on WASH and DRR in southern Haiti. A key NCA added value in all countries has been the persistent focus on working with faith-based partners and linking them to the wider civil society for increased impact.

In 2015, the World YWCA held the very first young women’s forum at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Building on this experience, the World YWCA together with UN Women, established subsequent CSW Youth Forums in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, the World YWCA, together with UN Women and other feminist organisations, led the establishment of a CSW Youth Dialogue.

The CSW Youth Dialogue especially focused on creating a safe space for advocates from rural and remote areas of the world. The Youth Dialogue produced a set of guidelines and parametres thatwhich are aimed at ensuring that the voices of young women from rural areas across the globe can be heard in decision-making processes.

Close cooperation between the DCA/NCA country office in Palestine and the ACT EU secretariat has resulted in Denmark and seven other EU countries, as well as the EU Commission, moving forward with claiming compensation for destroyed/confiscated humanitarian aid for the first time; EU Member State and European Parliament diplomatic pressure contributing to the postponement of forcible transfer of specific communities; and increased parliamentary action in Denmark and Brussels to protect Palestinian and Israeli Human Rights Defenders and space for civil society.  

NCA Ethiopia participated in the 62nd session on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) in New York to present FBAs’ experience in addressing issues of harmful practices and NCA Ethiopia’s FBA engagement model. An outcome of this was that the UN concluding document made visible FBOs role on ending FGM and child marriage in Ethiopia, whereby it mentioned the churches as important actors in ending harmful practices. Following CSW62, the Research Institute for Joint Learning Initiative invited NCA Ethiopia to be part of the global research commissioned by Girls Not Brides. As a result, the Girls not Brides partnership has documented the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s efforts for the abandonment of child marriage in its research document.