The complex nature of sustainable development requires deliberate collaboration between and among institutions in the three defined societal sectors; the public sector, private sector, and civil society sector.  Civil society organizations play significant roles in Caribbean communities, with the range of services provided expanding from traditional community volunteer efforts, through management of critical resources, to involvement in national and regional development initiatives. Civil society organizations are no longer staffed primarily by volunteers, with the sector hiring large numbers of full-time professional and support staff, and managing fairly large programs and budgets.  In spite of this expanded role, and recognition of the need for involvement of the sector in national and regional development processes, the civil society sector in the Caribbean faces challenges that severely reduce its effectiveness.

The Foundation for Development Planning, Inc, for the purposes of this civil society program, adopts the definition of civil society articulated in the 2004 report of the United Nations Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations–Civil Society Relations.

Civil society: Refers to the associations of citizens (outside their families, friends and businesses) entered into voluntarily to advance their interests, ideas and ideologies. The term does not include profit-making activity (the private sector) or governing (the public sector). Of particular relevance to the United Nations are mass organizations (such as organizations of peasants, women or retired people), trade unions, professional associations, social movements, indigenous people’s organizations, religious and spiritual organizations, academe and public benefit non-governmental organizations. (p. 13).

The goal of this program area of the Foundation for Development Planning, Inc (FDPI) is to improve the capacity of Caribbean civil society organizations to participate effectively in sub-national, national, and regional development processes. The FDPI acknowledges the fact that several institutions have articulated this goal of strengthening the civil society sector, and will therefore support existing civil society development initiatives where practicable. However, given the expanding role of civil society and the challenges faced by the sector, the FDPI supports the viewpoint that the sector need to strengthen its capacity, while at the same time building mechanisms that facilitate integrated programming that optimizes the delivery of benefits to the communities it serves.

Current areas of focus under this Civil Society Sector Initiative are:

• Improving governance;
• Creating a better understanding of the current and potential role of the civil society sector in Caribbean development; and
• Capacity development for effective participation in sub-national, national, and regional development processes.

One initiative under this program area is the compilation of a directory of Caribbean regional civil society organizations, which is updated on an annual basis. The 2021 edition of the Directory is now available. Listed organizations are encouraged to keep their profiles updated, and Caribbean regional civil society organizations not currently in the Directory should submit their information using the appropriate form.

The FDPI participated actively in the preparations of the Caribbean civil society sector for the 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The FDPI participated in the Caribbean regional preparatory meeting (Jamaica, July 2013) and the Inter-regional Preparatory Meeting (Barbados, August 2013). In addition, the Foundation assisted with the preparation of the Initial Discussion Paper submitted by the Caribbean Civil Society Consultative Working Group on SIDS, as well as the NGO Statement presented at the Inter-regional Preparatory Meeting in Barbados.

The FDPI collaborated with the Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative to establish a Protected Areas Conservation Action Team within the Cooperative, and routinely shares information on topics of common interest.

The FDPI is engaged in discussions within the civil society sector in the U.S. Virgin Islands regarding the need for an association of nonprofit organizations.  Preparation of a Discussion Paper that summarizes the current operating environment of the civil society sector in the Territory is one of the ways the FDPI is facilitating the discussions.