Open Budget Meeting, Bangladesh | © Helvetas Bangladesh

Governance & Civic Space

© Helvetas Bangladesh

Helvetas and our local partners support the empowerment of women, men, youth and civil societies to claim their rights, to engage in development and policy processes, and to become active and respected counterparts for governments. At the same time, we strengthen the capacities of national and local government institutions and authorities, so that they can fulfill their duties in a responsive, pro-poor and efficient manner and ensure that public decision-making processes are participatory and inclusive.

Why governance matters

In recent years, nations worldwide have made considerable progress in good governance by establishing democratic and often decentralized systems of governance, developing government capacities, and empowering citizens to partake in policy processes. Also SDG 16 calls for inclusive societies and effective and accountable governments. Despite this positive development, access to quality public services still remains a mirage for millions of poor and marginalized women and men. Poverty is increasingly located in states where government capacity is low and state institutions are only partly accepted. Governance structures are further challenged by increased urbanization and exodus from rural areas, high youth unemployment rates, climate change and the scramble for scarce natural resources, as well as latent and armed conflicts.

In addition, in many of the contexts Helvetas works in, there are increasing limitations on the space and enabling environment for civil society to organize collective action, enter into dialogue with governments, propose policy changes, implement development initiatives and speak out on behalf of poor and disadvantaged women and men.

What we do

Local Governance

For many poor and disadvantaged women and men, political participation at the local level is the most important means for influencing decisions and developing their communities. Helvetas aims to improve interactions at the local level between citizens, local civil society, the private sector and the state by raising awareness of rights and responsibilities, strengthening civil society organizations to become partners and mediators, and supporting public institutions in delivering quality public services.

Decentralized public service provision

Democratic decentralization is a necessary and complementary process to strengthening local governance. Helvetas concentrates on decentralized public services and focus on national policy that sets the framework conditions, the allocation of service delivery responsibilities at different levels of government, and the distribution of functions, finances and human resources. Our interventions support processes that aim to improve inclusive public services and democratic oversight mechanisms, ensure the sustainable funding and management of such services, and improve legal and institutional frameworks that specify the conditions of their delivery.

Sectoral Governance

Governance in its broadest definition looks at how decisions are being made, and how these decisions are being implemented. It therefore also affects all Helvetas activities. We build on existing principles of good governance and a rights-based approach to ensure all our country programs approach governance in a consistent and coherent manner.

© Helvetas
Example Albania: authorities that consider themselves as service providers for citizens enjoy greater public confidence. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
Nowadays people can contact their local goverment offices for different services directly online. Municipalities and town councils provide computer facilities for this purpose. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
In the village of Kolloleq (Kosovo) the Civic Forum will decide which project is to be realized © Helvetas

What we offer

  • Expertise in strengthening local governance to empower people as citizens, raising awareness of rights and responsibilities and strengthening confidence and capacities to effectively participate in local decision-making processes.
  • Supporting public institutions on all state levels to fulfill their responsibilities, to find political responses to existing challenges, deliver quality public services and respond to citizens needs while adhering to good governance principles.
  • Experience of working with local public administrations and executives (mayors), as well as local councils and elected representatives.
  • Mobilizing and strengthening local collective action, civil society organizations and networks, in particular their relationship with their constituencies and their capacities to engage in evidence-based advocacy.
  • Supporting participatory and inclusive decision-making processes about the use and distribution of local public resources, with a particular focus on local development planning and monitoring.
  • Project development in assisting clients in planning and designing governance interventions and projects, and in integrating good governance principles into sectoral projects and interventions.
  • Geographical coverage: Our advisors based in the Global South and in Switzerland provide technical support to projects in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Contact our team

Our multilingual advisory team offers wide-ranging thematic expertise and has in-depth experience in navigating complex processes. Helvetas’ work builds on over 60 years of experience in more than 30 countries.

Contact our experts for governance

Selected projects

Helvetas develops and guides projects. To be sustainable, they must be locally embedded. We support our partners in effectively organizing projects and processes and assist local authorities to better assume their responsibilities.

© Helvetas
Laos Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Fostering Civic Engagement

© Helvetas
Ethiopia Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Taking Responsibility for Village Administration

© Helvetas / Simon Opladen
Guatemala WASH & Water Governance

Good Governance Makes for Good Water

© Helvetas
Pakistan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Economic Prospects for Peace and Stability

© Helvetas
Bangladesh Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Sound Local Policy for Real Change

© Helvetas / Bruna Fossati
Sri Lanka Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Young People on Course for Reconciliation

© Helvetas
Tajikistan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Justice for All

Albania Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Building Confidence in Local Government

© Helvetas / Armand Habazaj
Albania, Serbia Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Social Sciences for a Better Society

© Helvetas
Tajikistan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Water for Sustainable Development

© Helvetas
Bhutan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Partnership for Diverse Civil Society Actions

Bangladesh_CSO-LA_5 | © Julia Thienhaus / Helvetas
Bangladesh Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Strengthening Capacities of the Disadvantaged

© Helvetas
Nepal Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Making Labor Migration an Informed Choice

© Helvetas
Kyrgyzstan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Contributing to a More Cohesive Society in Kyrgyzstan

Kosovo Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Building a Democratic Kosovo

© Water for food
Global Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Tackling Corruption in the Water Sector

© HelvetasBhutan
Bhutan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Bringing Decision-Making to Local Communities

© Helvetas
Guatemala Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Entrepreneurship in the Guatemalan Highlands

Sri Lanka Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

A journey towards a Human Trafficking Free Sri Lanka

Open History Exhibition Dawei | © Helvetas Myanmar
Myanmar Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Open History: Arts for Peace

Bangladesh Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Local Government Initiatives on Climate Change

© Helvetas
Serbia Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

ACT for a Stronger Civil Society

Myanmar Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

For a Pluralistic, Inclusive and Peaceful Society

© Helvetas
Vietnam Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Strengthening Land Rights of Ethnic Minorities

Lebanon Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Strengthening Civil Society through Digital Literacy

Myanmar Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Artists Relief Fund

Further information

Download and read our publications on different governance related topics.

Partnerships, alliances and networks

Other topics that might interest you


Helvetas neither encourages nor discourages people from migration. We recognize migration as a viable livelihood strategy.

Conflict Transformation

Sustainable development can only happen in a peaceful context, where human rights are respected and promoted.

Gender & Social Equity

Helvetas makes sure that our work actively and meaningfully includes and supports the most disadvantaged groups.