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Raising voices around the world

Reflecting on five years of Citizen Agency

In a country plagued by corruption, how can you prevent another toxic mining spill? Is it possible to end malnutrition without listening to everyone’s ideas, mothers’ as well as ministers’? Or, propel women’s development when their needs are mere footnotes in energy policy planning? For this, you need to partner with courageous and determined civil society organizations. You need to support their efforts to ensure the voices of people whose lives are affected by persistent social ills are heard.

2020 marks the last year of a unique five-year-long strategic partnership between ARTICLE 19, Hivos, IIED and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Under the ministry’s Dialogue and Dissent program, alliances were forged with organizations around the world to collectively achieve a single purpose: strengthening the influencing power of civil society in low- and middle-income countries.

The partnership’s final year is unlike any other. 2020 will go down in history as the year that put a hold on daily life everywhere. As COVID-19 sweeps the earth, people are confronted with concerns about their health and the well-being of their communities. The pandemic also reveals the weaknesses of global systems and the inequalities they perpetuate. We see how workers at the bottom of supply chains are bearing the brunt of unsustainable global trade. We realize that our current energy and food systems play an important role in exposing us to viruses. And we can no longer ignore the fact that human health is intrinsically linked to planetary health. We also see how governments struggle to keep their health systems afloat, while prices of medical equipment surge and we lack sufficient transparency and accountability in procurement.

Inclusive social change

From experience, we know that crises hit marginalized communities the hardest and that existing inequalities are exacerbated. Around the world we are faced with two important questions. How can we, in the middle of the challenges we face, ensure that authorities are equitable when it comes to economic, health and food crisis measures? And how can we seize the moment and ensure that this global crisis becomes a motor of sustainable change?

For Hivos, the capacity of citizens and their organizations to push for inclusive social change lies at the heart of the answer to these questions.

Citizen Agency Consortium

Therefore, strengthening citizen agency is at the core of the partnership. We built an international alliance to ensure that the voices of people whose interests are at stake are heard.

Strengthening citizen agency is at the core of the partnership.

The Citizen Agency Consortium, consisting of Hivos, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and ARTICLE 19, develops civil society’s capacity to influence policy and practices of markets and governments. In its activities the consortium covers four thematic areas: Sustainable Diets for All, Green and Inclusive Energy, Women@Work and Open Up Contracting. Through conducting thorough research, designing multi-stakeholder platforms, and engaging with journalists, we put advocacy practices to the test to influence policy agendas.

Over the past years, this has led to lasting social change. We pushed for access to renewable energy and sustainable diets for marginalized communities, we improved working conditions of women, and we helped initiate open data initiatives to increase accountability of authorities around the world.

Below you will find inspiring examples of the results achieved by the local organizations we work with. You can also read publications about our partnership’s work, available here to help other organizations and people in the future.

Citizen Agency Consortium
  • 15

    The consortium works in 15 countries in Africa, Latin-America and Southeast Asia

  • 125

    125 organizations are involved in the consortium's programming

  • 61

    61 laws, policies and norms were implemented for sustainable and inclusive development

Green and Inclusive Energy

Green and Inclusive Energy works to influence energy policies and practices so investments in decentralized renewable energy will increase. The program does this mainly through advocacy. It creates coalitions with governments and private sector partners and improves the effectiveness of local partners. Because this focus on lobby engages citizens and sparks public debate, it helps tip the public policy balance towards more decentralized people-centered energy systems. 

Open Up Contracting

How much money was spent to build a new public school? How did the government select the winning bid and company? Did that company actually deliver according to the contract? To answer these questions, citizens need access to information about the full public contracting process. The Open Up Contracting program aims to foster more efficient, transparent and accountable contracting processes by working through and with civil society partners in seven countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. 

Sustainable Diets for All

Sustainable Diets for All builds the lobby and advocacy capacity of citizens and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to jointly challenge unsustainable practices and incentives in food production and consumption. The program takes evidence – especially when generated by citizens – directly to policymakers and international institutions so their policies, market practices and legislation will promote diets that are diverse, healthy, fair and based on environmentally sustainable production methods.


Women@Work aims to improve the labor conditions of women who work in the global supply chains of flowers and vegetables that are grown in East and Southern Africa. Hivos and partners work with businesses, governments and civil society actors to enforce change for women employees. Specifically, decent wages, participation in decision making, leadership at management level and in trade unions, as well as safety and security in the workplace without sexual harassment.