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Overview of the Civil Society Sector

There is growing agreement among observers that civil society, civic culture, and social capital are all important for
strengthening democracy and enabling conflict resolution. Concern about civil society, however, is not only relevant
to Kenya but to the world at large. Demands on CSOs have been further complicated by their expanding roles in the
sphere of social development and change. While much civil society work has historically been focused on local problems, CSOs now increasingly work at national and trans-national levels as well and are engaged in all
socio-economic and political sectors of society. In order to remain relevant and responsive to an ever changing
environment witnessed by CSOs, there is need for standards that are understood and practiced by all sector actors.
The diversity of the sector is recognised, for example, in CSO size, focus, location and geographical coverage. At the
same time, organisations may be the same size with similar missions, but their organisational culture or practices
may not be the same. Therefore a common understanding around standards becomes more critical to the integrity of
the civil society sector.
One of the most complex challenges facing CSOs today is the question of their legitimacy and accountability as
social actors to key stakeholders. Similarly, challenges to the capacity of CSOs have emerged as they have begun to play increasingly vital roles in development and governance processes at local, national and international levels.

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