DFID’s partnerships with civil society organisations

DFID values civil society organisations (CSOs), but its funding and partnership practices do not fully support the long-term health of the civil society sector.

Score: Amber/Red
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 10 April 2019
  3. Type: Performance review
  4. Subject: Civil society
  5. Assessment: Amber/Red
  6. Location: Bangladesh, Ethiopia
  7. Lead commissioner: Tina Fahm


ICAI’s review of DFID’s partnerships with civil society organisations was published in April 2019. We awarded an amber-red score and made five recommendations. The follow-up to this review was published in July 2020.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) pursue development and humanitarian objectives at multiple levels, from small village-based organisations to international non-governmental organisations with the capacity to deliver humanitarian and development aid across multiple countries. Their work supports the full range of Sustainable Development Goals.

The UK government has been funding CSOs since long before the establishment of the Department for International Development (DFID) in 1997, but the volume and modalities of funding to CSOs has changed over time.

In 2014-15, DFID’s bilateral civil society portfolio peaked at £1,375 million, or 25% of its bilateral spend. It then declined to £1,268 million, or 20% of bilateral spend, in 2016-17. In addition, a significant but unreported share of DFID funding to multilateral agencies is sub-contracted to CSOs.

DFID’s current approach to working with civil society is set out in its 2016 Civil Society Partnership Review (CSPR). The CSPR ushered in significant changes to how DFID funds CSOs at a time when CSOs were also adapting to fast-changing operational contexts.



Published 13 July 2018

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 10 April 2019

Government response

Published 29 May 2019

Parliamentary scrutiny

IDC hearing 12 June 2019

ICAI follow-up

Published 23 July 2020