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Civil society engagement in tax reform

Over the past few years, the international development community has paid growing attention to domestic resource mobilisation (DRM) in developing countries in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and reduce their dependence on aid and foreign borrowing. As part of this, donors have also begun to think about the role that civil society organisations (CSOs) can play in domestic efforts to strengthen tax systems.

To date, this is an area of engagement that has remained considerably limited, with only 3% of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development donor funding for DRM allocated to local civil society. Moreover, the literature on civil society engagement in tax reform is also limited, consisting primarily of isolated donor programme reports. International support thus far has rested on a number of assumptions – including that the key constraint to engagement and influence of CSOs in tax reform is weak technical capacity. This assumption, and others, needs to be further tested.

This project was commissioned by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI) to better understand the role of civil society in promoting tax reforms and help to inform debates on how international development actors can more effectively support civil society engagement in this area. As part of this work, the ODI team produced a report drawing on research from eight countries across Africa, the Americas and Asia, and engaged in a variety of policy fora on the basis of the report's recommendations. 

Through a rapid survey of tax civil society in eight countries – Brazil, El Salvador, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, Uganda, the United States and Zambia – the resulting report addresses the following research questions:

  • What is the appetite for civil society engagement on tax issues and why?
  • (If there is appetite), what is civil society’s capacity for engagement as well as its influence on tax issues?
  • What kind of support do international development actors provide to civil society with regard to tax issues?
  • What form might more effective support to civil society actors take? How could current mechanisms of support to civil society become more effective?


Alina Rocha Menocal, Stephanie Small and Samuel Sharp

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