Civil society

The role of civil society in enhancing infrastructure transparency

Civil society, alongside the media and other stakeholders, play an important role in helping to communicate key messages from the CoST assurance process to the public and in building public demand for greater accountability from decision-makers.

Why is CoST beneficial to civil society?

CoST works with civil society organisations (CSOs) who share concerns about the transparency and proper use of public funds. Together we pursue common objectives and CoST helps further civil society aims by providing clear and comprehensive information on the transparency of complex infrastructure projects.

Involving civil society through multi-stakeholder working

Civil society representatives are directly involved in CoST by holding positions on our multi-stakeholder groups (MSGs) which guide the delivery of CoST programmes. They ensure these groups are balanced and that the public’s voice is taken into account as decisions are made.

Whilst broadly concerned with the correct use of public funds, the CSOs we work with cover a variety of focus areas including the social and environmental impacts of projects; value for money; professional and technical issues; and transparency and anti-corruption.

Across the MSGs these different groups are brought together by a shared mission to enhance infrastructure transparency.

Building civil society skills and knowledge

CoST also carries out training with civil society and other groups so they can provide critical oversight of public infrastructure projects and raise concerns in an appropriate way with contractors and public entities. Despite the challenging environment, training programmes such as this have recently been rolled out in Afghanistan, where CSOs been taught to find important data on infrastructure projects through the government’s online data disclosure platform.

In Honduras CoST has also worked with the renowned ‘School of Social Accountability’ to establish a course which trains expert members of civil society to monitor complex infrastructure projects. During 2018, members from 28 of the country’s 298 municipalities were trained assess projects disclosed on the data disclosure platform, SISOCS. Equipped with what they had learnt, they went on to produce social audit reports which helped to raise alarms on key issues and which informed the CoST Honduras assurance process.

CoST Honduras also works closely with another social accountability stakeholder, the media. In 2019 CoST Honduras and the National Autonomous University of Honduras launched its third investigative award and diploma for journalists, which teaches the methods, tools and techniques needed to investigate public infrastructure projects. Working in tandem with civil society, these journalists help to prompt action on key issues. In 2017, first prize was awarded to reporter Josue Quintana for an article exposing a miscalculation on a road and bridge expansion and reconstruction project. Thanks to recommendations from the CoST Honduras assurance process and this media pressure, the government took action by reviewing the contract.

Recognition at the international level

International CSOs have recognised the benefits that CoST provides, such as multi-stakeholder governance and the disclosure of key infrastructure information into the public domain. In 2019 the Civil Society 20 Infrastructure Working Group endorsed the CoST approach in its policy pack, the CoST Infrastructure Disclosure Standard was endorsed by Transparency International in its ‘gold standard’ integrity pact, Open Government Partnership and CoST co-published a guidance note on our synergies and we have recently partnered with Open Contracting Partnership on our latest tool, the Open Contracting for Infrastructure Data Standard.

We also join up with our partners on the international stage at key international events. Browse our news section for more information.

Further information

Please click here for a briefing note which shows how civil society participation has worked so far within CoST and the benefits for civil society supporters of the programme. We will be publishing social accountability guidance in 2020, which will provide further details on this.