The Philippines is the best place in Asia for civil society organizations (CSOs) to survive and thrive.
This is according to the latest CSO sustainability index for Asia prepared for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) by the Washington-based Management Systems International (MSI).
The study showed that the Philippines recorded an overall CSO sustainability score of 3.3—where 1 is the highest and 7 the lowest—beating the average in Asia of 4.1.
Following the Philippines was Bangladesh with 3.5, while Sri Lanka brought up the rear with a sustainability index score of 5.
The sustainability score as of 2014 was based on seven “dimensions” of civil society sustainability as determined by a panel of experts. These are legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, infrastructure and public image.
A score of 3.3 means that sustainability is “evolving,” or that civil society is at a moderately high level of sustainability and development, according to the Caucus of Development NGO networks (Code-NGO), the implementing partner for the Philippines of MSI.
“In general, government is fairly open to CSOs, although the democratic space has expanded or constricted slightly, depending on political dynamics,” Code-NGO said in a paper. “The sector offers a wide range of services, has formed many issue-based coalitions, and has been effective in broad-based campaigns.”
Code-NGO said that since the term of President Aquino began in 2010, government-CSO relations had “flourished, with the government accepting CSOs as watchdogs and partners in service delivery.”
“Notably, the Aquino government opened up national and local budgets to public scrutiny, allowing CSOs to engage actively with the government in the identification of priorities, allocation of resources, and monitoring of expenditures.”
Philippine CSOs scored the lowest on financial viability, however, as they primarily rely on international and local donor grants.
Thus, as funding sources dry up, more civil society organizations are prompted to tap new local sources, raise their own funds, charge service fees and explore social enterprises to be self-reliant.
“In general, international donor funding has gone down. Local giving is focused mainly on churches and schools and on corporate or family foundations linked to the donors,” Code-NGO executive director Sixto Donato C. Macasaet said.
The USAID’s CSO sustainability index reports on the strength and overall viability of CSO sectors in 63 countries across four regions: Eastern Europe and Eurasia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa (Mena), Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The first CSO sustainability index for Eastern Europe and Eurasia report was produced in 1998; in 2009, it was for Africa, and in 2011, for Mena and Afghanistan-Pakistan.
For the 2014 report, USAID expanded the index to Asia, specifically the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Nepal, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
USAID uses the index to measure programming success by USAID as well as other donors. It is used by civil society organizations to seek funding from both American and European sources.
The latest data show there are 300,000 registered civil society organizations in the country, including nonprofit organizations, cooperatives, homeowners’ associations and workers unions and associations.