Aaron Chassy: Civil Society and Development Effectiveness

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Location: 3130 Eck Hall of Law

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The Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Kellogg Institute for International Studies welcomed Director for Technical Integration at Catholic Relief Services Aaron Chassy, a specialist in good governance and civil society. Mr. Chassy reflected on peacebuilding, governance, international development, and effectiveness of aid in his lecture entitled, “Civil Society and Development Effectiveness.”

Mr. Chassy emphasized the importance of changing how international development organization work with civil societies in order to ensure effective development throughout the world, saying, “Civil society can contribute both to positive development outcomes, as well as some of the less favorable ones that development is supposed to be addressing in the first place.” He warned against the instrumentalization of development that results from thinking of civil society organizations “more as economic actors or businesses.” Instead we must work to understand civil societies’ unique functions: protection of new structures, monitoring and accountability of government and societal actors, advocacy and public communication, socialization and education, building social cohesion, state and citizen intermediation, and service or aid delivery. Mr. Chassy argued that by understanding these functions of civil society, we may address a fundamental obstacle to international development and peacebuilding:  “How can you strength governance if people are too busy tearing at each others throats?”

“There is no one-size-fits-all formula,” he concluded, “[But] there is a virtuous circle that we can and should be enabling with our programming efforts if we’re going to strengthen civil society and if we’re going to contribute to more effective development outcomes.”

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