To ensure an accountable and democratic government, the European Union (EU) British Council has stressed the need to invest in, and engage with Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s), saying their contributions to sustainable development in any country cannot be over emphasised.

To this end, the council recently launched the €13.5 million funded Agents for Citizen-driven Transformation (ACT) programme in Abuja, a programme to be implemented in the North-east, North-west, South-east, South-west and North-central following increasing rate of conflicts.

While describing the essence of the project, the EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Ketil Karisen, said the programme aims at supporting and strengthening institutional mechanisms, structures, and processes in Nigeria.

According to him, “there was the need to improve the internal, external and pragmamatic competence of CSO’s, networks and coalitions in the country.

“ACT will seek to facilitate improved CSO regulatory frameworks through the provision of support that promotes self-regulatory mechanisms amongs CSO’s while exploring ways to support the evolution of a functional and effective national regulatory framework that will be acceptable to all stakeholders.

“The programme’s aim is to strengthen donor coordination on CSO engagement in Nigeria with a view to ensuring that there are strategic linkages and opportunities for knowledge sharing amongst key donors and international development partners supporting CSO strenghning in Nigeria.”

However, the Director, International Cooperation at the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning Mrs. Elizabeth Egharevba, assured of government’s support to the strengthening of CSO’s, and successful implementation of ACT in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the Sub-Saharan Africa Portfolio Lead and Programme Director for ACT, Mr. Bob Arnot, said that the programme seeks to also address and support gender related issues.

Arnot informed that, ” the ACT is funded by the European Union (EU) under 11th European development fund EDF and implemented by the British council.

“A total of €13.5m which is equivalent to an estimate of six billion eighty-nine million eighty-seven thousand nine hundred twenty-five was given by the EU towards the support of the project and assures of a successful implementation.”

Also in a statement by the ACT Programme Manager, Mr. Damilare Babalola, it is designed by the EU in response to the identified need to invest in and engage with CSOs in Nigeria by supporting the “strengthening of civil society institutional mechanisms, structures and processes to improve the internal, external and programmatic competence of selected CSOs, Networks and Coalitions”.

Babalola said that the ACT programme implementation strategy was developed during its inception phase between August 2018 and December 2018, commencing implementation in June 2019 through to April 2023.

This programme, he said, seeks to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development in Nigeria through enhancing the capabilities of CSOs and their role as independent development actors and drivers of change.

ACT, according to him, will adopt a “rights-based approach” by placing emphasis on building the capabilities of rights-holders to engage with duty bearers by ensuring good governance and sustainable development outcomes in Nigeria.

“Today, on 24 September 2019, the European Union is officially presenting the ACT programme through this public launch, which provides a platform the funders and implementing partners to interface with the media and the public; while also outlining the value the ACT programme will bring to the civil society and justice sector.

“ACT will adopt the approach of Problem Driven, Iterative, Adaptive (PDIA) and learning, as its overarching strategy for implementation. This way, lessons learnt throughout implementation will be integral to programme adaptation and improved practice”.

British Council also explained the programme intervention logic that includes Strategic Support Areas: Technical support/assistant, internal and external institutional support, strengthening potentials and platforms for sustainability, self and national regulatory framework development, and strengthening mechanism for coordination among stakeholders.

The programme outputs will focus on strengthening EU focal selected CSOs, networks and coalitions; and appropriate, efficient and gender-responsive regulatory framework. On the intermediate outcomes/results are: CSOs, networks and coalitions that are focused, engaged in policy debates and advocacy issues that reflect interests of their constituents/citizens; and supported CSOs, networks and coalitions are more transparent, accountable and trusted citizens.

Also the medium-term outcomes include: CSOs, networks and coalitions that are credible drivers of sustainable development; while the impact will focus on the CSOs, networks and coalitions that contribute to more inclusive, effective, accountable and gender-responsive development in Nigeria.

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