Studies of CSO governance in Mozambique have frequently identified issues with downward accountability, including accountability to member organisations in the case of the platforms, federations or networks that are increasingly used to try to promote collective action by CSOs in a highly competitive funding environment. This is significant given that most CSOs lack mechanisms to involve their target groups meaningfully in decision-making, even though their theories of change attach great importance to social mobilisation, particularly the need for citizen support for their initiatives. Some of the most important CSOs – including the National Union of Peasants (UNAC) and the Women’s Forum (Fórum Mulher) increasingly see themselves as social movements and are engaging in new and more contestatory forms of social and political action, which makes the issue of their representativeness, legitimacy and accountability to constituencies even more critical.
This study focused on a key issue for understanding the dynamics of empowerment and accountability: the role of civil society organisations in mediating between states and citizens, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected settings, and the extent to which such mediation may constitute an effective and inclusive form of political representation for marginalised groups, rather than an extension of existing processes of elite capture and clientelism. It responds to the ongoing debate in Mozambique on the legitimacy of civil society organisations, particularly on the extent to which an organisation needs to have a constituency in order to engage in lobbying and advocacy, and its sources of legitimacy to intervene in policy processes.