CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

Coding and Decoding Civil Society

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 2, 2011

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is pleased to announce the publication of the Civil Society Index (CSI) Venezuela Analytical Country Report. The CSI in Venezuela was implemented by SINERGIA, with local partnerships with the Development Efficiency Forum and the Association and NGOs Networks Articulation Board in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Venezuelans, the report finds, have historically been inclined to perceive the state as responsible for the solution of all their needs, and therefore to give in to clientelism. This tradition has been exacerbated by recent trends towards state interventionism. The report suggests that three features distinguish Venezuelan civil society today: polarisation within a framework of political discrimination, fast transformations in response to a volatile environment and deep-rooted public anti-political attitudes. Venezuelan society, it concludes, is made up of two blocs: one in favour of the revolutionary project and one against. Between these two poles, most civil society organisations (CSOs) are affected by a model in which autonomous intermediate organisations are not considered by authorities as legitimate interlocutors.

The report shows low civic participation and low impact of civil society on public policies and public attitudes. It also finds that the external context does not favour the development of civil society, with a significant number of CSOs forced to coexist within a restrictive legal framework and facing governmental practices that limit their autonomy. On the plus side, it finds that civil society has had a positive influence on the extension of social rights, and enjoys much stronger trust and public legitimacy compared to state agencies, the media and political parties. It concludes that this legitimacy offers a major opportunity for civil society’s development.

Recommendations from the report suggest that the first priority is to create a dialogue platform to diffuse polarisation. This dialogue must include political parties and CSOs as well as the rest of civil society, and other sectors such as business, academia donors and sectors with different ideologies, both locally and nationally. Another priority is to recover interpersonal trust and civic spiritedness by enhancing the scope of values training programmes, and to fight against clientelism, upholding the right to participate in public spheres and to access state resources without relinquishing autonomy. Fostering civic engagement will, it suggests, involve organising a broad campaign informing of the rights granted by the Constitution, so as to arouse citizen consciousness about the need to join actively in their promotion.

Venezuela, as one of the six countries from Latin America that implemented the CSI, has partnered with the other five countries to create a work team that will exchange the results of the project as a means for regional knowledge sharing.

To read the full report, click here

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