Remarks by Gloria D. Steele, Mission Director, USAID Closing Program, Strengthening the Capacity of CSOs Project

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

[As Prepared]

Acknowledgements: Chairman Fernando Zobel De Ayala, Ayala Foundation project team, Members of the CSO Project Consortium, Civil society partners, Colleagues, Good afternoon!

I am delighted to be here today to congratulate the Ayala Foundation, the other consortium members, and the participating civil society organizations on this important achievement.

We launched this [U.S. Embassy Manila’s United States Agency for International Development’s] project to strengthen the capacity of CSOs with an ambitious vision of expanding high-impact local partnerships and increasing investments directly to local organizations to achieve long-term, sustainable development. It is rewarding to see where we are now, celebrating the results we have achieved in such a short span of time.

In 2010, USAID embarked on a new model for development, called “USAID Forward”. It was a comprehensive reform agenda to make our development efforts more relevant and meaningful. One of its core strategies was to broaden our engagement with local organizations. We, in USAID/Philippines embraced this as did many of our other missions around the world, so much so that the name changed to “USAID Now.”

The logic for “going local” is simple: local institutions, private sector partners and civil society organizations are the engines of growth and progress of any nation. Going local makes the development impact more direct, tangible and sustainable.

But before we can broaden our engagement, we must ensure that local organizations are well-positioned to partner with us. And so this project was born three years ago. Since then, we have trained over 130 civil society organizations across the country, representing diverse development interests. USAID has awarded $12 million to six of these organizations to help them implement their home-grown reforms in strategic development areas. And we expect to partner with many more in the coming years.

Throughout this project, we gained insights on how we conduct our business and cultivate partnerships. Sincere dialogues with our partners revealed how we could streamline, update and strengthen our operations. This encouraged us to simplify our procurement and due diligence processes without compromising fiduciary controls. This project also taught us that we must take calculated risks to engage new partners and invest in innovative ideas.

We are proud that this project’s legacy reached beyond the Philippines into the international community. Other USAID missions have since adopted this model, which has elevated USAID Philippines as a global leader in advancing local partnerships and local solutions. Just last October, we hosted a USAID Kosovo team to help them develop a similar CSO strengthening project.


Many thanks to our implementing partners who made this project a great success. And to the Ayala Foundation, especially project lead Marissa Camacho, I deeply appreciate your commitment to improve the organizational development of our local partners.

I’d also like to acknowledge the other members of the CSO consortium – the Association of Foundations, CODE-NGO, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, the Philippine Council for NGO Certification and the U.P. Public Administration Research and Extension Services Foundation, for generously sharing their knowledge and resources to the participating CSOs.

And thank you to the 40 volunteer mentors who walked the local organizations through the organizational adjustment process. You championed our goal of expanding local partnerships. I was told that some of our mentors will guide our local partners beyond this project. I admire this level of commitment.

And finally, my sincerest gratitude to our civil society partners for giving us the opportunity to participate in your journey towards greater organizational maturity. Your desire to improve your own organizations’ governance is laudable, especially at this time when pseudo-CSOs or shell corporations have been used as conduits of fraud and laundering. The diversion of public funds into private pockets necessitated closer scrutiny of the CSO community, and in some cases the tightening of vetting procedures.

Given these challenges, it is imperative for CSOs to practice the principles they demand from government, such as transparency, accountability, effectiveness, efficiency, inclusiveness and strategic vision. And you all have demonstrated this steadfast commitment to organizational governance through your participation in this project.

A mature and accountable civil society sector can empower all citizens, including vulnerable populations, to participate and benefit from sustainable and inclusive growth. Each of you play a significant role towards realizing our shared vision of broad-based, inclusive and resilient growth that benefits all Filipinos.

In a period when the environment for CSOs to operate freely and effectively is closing in many countries around the world, the Philippines continues to be a bright star and a beacon for the world to follow. Let us all continue to work together to keep it that way.

Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.

Issuing Country