CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

Civic Engagement- Long Road To Go

Posted by civilsocietyindex on April 4, 2011

CIVICUS is pleased to announce the publication of the CSI Analytical Country Report from Macedonia, entitled Civic Engagement – Long Road to Go. The project was implemented in Macedonia by the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC) with financial support from the Church Development Service (Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst- EED) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

MCIC decided to conduct CSI for a second time in Macedonia because of its utility not only for civil society, but also for other stakeholders. After five years of the first CSI, it is evident that CSOs used CSI as a self-assessment and evidence-based advocacy tool. CSI provides a base for strategy development, such as the working programme for 2006-2007 of the Civic Platform of Macedonia, and for creating public policies, such as the Strategy for Cooperation of the Government with the Civil Sector, adopted in 2007. By offering a comprehensive research methodology accompanied by actions it helps civil society to conduct further assessments and to share understanding of the context and state of civil society.

The highest impacts of civil society are seen as empowering citizens and promoting policies for human rights and equality, with external stakeholders rating civil society’s impact as slightly higher than internal self-assessment. Members of civil society are, however, not setting strong examples in terms of tolerance, trust and public spiritedness. Only a small minority of citizens are engaged in CSOS, and no significant changes have been seen here in the last five years. Participation of citizens in informal activities to advance common interests is higher. As most groups of citizens are present in civil society, diversity is highly rated. The external environment for civil society is reasonable, but hindered by a state that is only partially effective, corruption in the public sector and a deep lack of public trust. As part of this, trust in civil society is low. More encouragingly, CSOs feel that the legal environment has improved in the last five years and that organisations are somewhat freer to do their work.

Main strengths of Macedonian civil society identified by the study included its good influence over policies related to the protection of human rights and equality, decentralisation and the Ohrid Framework Agreement (which guarantees rights for Macedonia’s Albanian minority). Other strengths identified include capacity to empower citizens and meet societal needs, strong networking, communication and cooperation, and low levels of corruption, compared to the high levels of corruption in the public sector. CSOs also show they have capacity to raise funds from diverse sources, suggesting there may be a solid base for ensuring financial sustainability of civil society in future.

Very limited impact on the main social problems in Macedonia – particularly poverty and unemployment – is one major weakness of Macedonian civil society, along with insufficient attempts to influence national budgetary processes. Limited involvement of citizens in civil society together with insufficient commitment of CSOs to their relations with members, citizens and other actors are another weak point, as are the lack of paid staff and civil society’s failure to act as a role model for trust, tolerance and public spiritedness.

The report follows a previous 2006 CSI study, entitled After 15 years of transition – a country moving towards citizen participation. The underling idea at that time was that civil society was nearing the end of its period of stabilisation and that civil society should build on the success and seek to expand citizen participation (civic engagement). There were issues to be addressed to fulfil that objective including a need to respond to two crucial social concerns: combating poverty and corruption. Now, some years later in Macedonia, the Civil Society Index study provides an opportunity to explore the changes. 22.9% of citizens were members of CSOs in 2004, and six years later that figure was 24.7% (14.9% are members of at least one socially based CSO, and 25.4% are members of at least one political based CSO).

The CSI report for Macedonia suggests that the country may indeed now have achieved the first step in increasing civic engagement – but that the building of long term participation and civic awareness among citizens represents just the first step on a long road to go.

To read the full report, click here.

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