CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

Archive for October, 2010

CSO Accountability Workshop in Sierra Leone

Posted by civilsocietyindex on October 29, 2010

by CIVICUS LTA

CIVICUS has teamed up with Accountability Alert in Sierra Leone to strength the legitimacy, transparency and accountability of civil society in the country. We are hosting a 2 day multi-stakeholder workshop in Freetown on 10-11 November to launch the new national programme which seeks to raise the standard of governance within the NGO sector.

In Sierra Leone there is a pressing need for civil society to strengthen professional performance and ethical behaviour in order to address the commonly held perception that civil society organisations operate under a veil of secrecy.

There are high expectations of civil society organisations so stories of bad behaviour and hypocrisy often have a lasting negative impact in the sector. CIVICUS’ Civil Society Index (CSI) findings show that there have been high levels of financial mismanagement within civil society organisations, as well as weak internal governance and gender equity. Action must be taken to improve public trust and the credibility of the NGO sector.

There are huge amounts of foreign aid pouring into Sierra Leone with donors channelling funds into state-building, as well as providing financial support directly to civil society organisations. Accountability Alert and CIVICUS hopes to build a collective society voice that speaks out about the responsibility civil society has to adhere to agreed values and principles of accountability.

The workshop to be held on 10-11 November 2010 will be a key occasion for civil society organisations, beneficiaries, donors, INGOs and government officials to identify ways to strengthen accountability in the NGO sector. It will be an opportunity for civil society to define the models of legitimacy, transparency and accountability they want to adopt to enhance their efficiency and improve their reputation. We are very fortunate that the review of best practices will be informed by CSO accountability experts from DENIVA in Uganda and NWANGO in Cameroon, as well as CIVICUS LTA programme experiences.

The LTA Programme will report back on the progress of this important workshop and how civil society in Sierra Leone plans to tackle legitimacy, transparency and accountability challenges. CIVICUS are playing an instrumental role in bringing together civil society organisations together at a national level, alongside accountability experts and influential policy makers.

To read the full CSI Sierra Leone Country Report, click here

Advertisements

Posted in Africa, CIVICUS News, Country News, CSI Impact | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

CIVICUS and CSI to attend the upcoming Black Sea NGO Forum: 21- 23 October 2010 in Constanta, Romania

Posted by civilsocietyindex on October 20, 2010

By Megan MacGarry

CIVICUS and the CSI team here at the Secretariat in Johannesburg are delighted to announce that Mariano De Donatis, the new Manager for the Convening Unit at CIVICUS, will be attending the upcoming Third edition of the Black Sea NGO Forum to be held on 21-23 October 2010 in Constanta, Romania. This will be hosted by the Romanian Federation of Development NGOs (FOND).  The Black Sea NGO Forum was launched in 2008 by FOND and its partners throughout the region with support from the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation in the framework of the Black Sea Synergy. It has continued in 2009 in cooperation with the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission and the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation.

The Forum aims at increasing the level of dialogue and coordination among NGOs, as well as strengthening the advocacy capacity for NGOs in order to influence development strategies in the region. It gathers NGOs from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, other EU member states and important actors in the wider Black Sea Region. The first two editions of the Forum knowledge that took place in this region, which is extremely complex from a political point of view, showed that cooperation among NGOs from the civil society represents a real potential for stability and prosperity in the wider Black Sea region.

The 2010 agenda will dedicate a space for sharing governmental actors, international institutions and donors’ perspectives, assessments and experiences, introducing their programs and interacting with NGO representatives in the search of common solutions to regional and local problems.

There are two specific sessions on the Forum’s agenda that will be of specific interest for the CSI partners and researchers. These two sessions will be continuing work that was started by various Black Sea Region CSI partners who held a very interactive session at the International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR) that took place in July in Istanbul, Turkey. This was led by TUSEV from Turkey, a current and former CSI implementer, along with numerous other Black Sea representatives, both CSI active or non, all supported by the Black Sea Trust, a part of the German Marshall Fund.

At the upcoming NGO Forum, various partners from this original workshop will also continue the work started in Istanbul, with various other CSI partners attending the Forum.

Numerous previous and current CSI country implementers are planning two separate events as a follow up to the Istanbul event:

1)       Open space panel on “Democracy and Citizen Participation” to discuss and work on an action plan / collection of regional cooperation ideas for the “Civic Participation” dimension of our exercise in Istanbul.

2)      Open space panel on “Challenges for the Independence of the Civil Society” panel where we can work on “Government – Civil Society Relations” dimension by suggesting some additional topics.

Mariano will be participating in these events, to lead on issues of CSI implementation, but also to follow on the very interesting Black Sea regional discussions and developments that are currently occurring. There is scope for new and exciting partnerships and networks to emerge from these discussions and interactions throughout the Forum. We both in the CSI team and CIVICUS, look forward to feedback and insights that will emerge as a result of this exciting and in-depth regional event. We congratulate our partners on this initiative and wish all participants of the Forum the best of luck in their upcoming discussions and interactions to take place over the next few days.

Posted in Asia, CIVICUS News, Country News, Europe | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

From Poverty to Decent Work – Bridging the gap for the youth

Posted by civilsocietyindex on October 19, 2010

Each year, October 17 is a new occasion to highlight the issues behind poverty in the world. As the ‘International Day for the Eradication of Poverty’, it stressed once again this year the emergency of the situation, as almost half the world population – over three billion people – live on less than $2.50 a day (World Bank Development Indicators 2008).

Yesterday October 18, United Nations officials, member States and representatives of non-governmental organizations met at the UN headquarters to commemorate the theme for 2010, “From Poverty to Decent Work: Bridging the Gap”.

At this occasion, the agenda was to explore practical measures to alleviate the disproportionate burden of unemployment on young people and inadequate opportunities for decent work. Indeed the International Labour Organisation (LTO) reported recently in its annual Global Employment Trends that the global unemployment rate increased by 0.9 per cent between 2007 and 2009, to reach 6.6 per cent. Over the same period, the unemployment rate of young people rose from 11.8 per cent to 13.4 per cent.

The probability for young people to be unemployed is three times higher than for adults, bringing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to raise awareness about their situation. “Last year, more than 81 million young people were unemployed, the highest on record. One of the best ways for youth to see a future of hope is through the prism of a decent job” he said on Sunday.

Symbols of hope for a better tomorrow, young people need a future where the role they play is recognized and encouraged rather than overlooked and dismissed. To guarantee their voices are heard, participation is of paramount importance, whether through their involvement in civil society organisations, elections or youth networks.

In order to better understand the challenges faced by youth, and identify how governments, civil society and young people themselves can tackle these challenges, it is crucial to bridge the information gap by developing platforms for dialogue, knowledge sharing, project development and capacity building within the youth but also between the youth and the rest of the society. As part of its action-oriented assessment of the state of civil society, the Civil Society Index analyzes the extent, depth and diversity of civic engagement. It notably enables to get a better understanding of the youth engagement, its scope and nature, and identify the areas of potential improvement.

YOUTH METRO is the youth institute of the People for Change Foundation

The People for Change Foundation – the CSI partner in Malta, has conceived a specific project dedicated to youth capacity building. Created in early 2007, YOUTH METRO intends to provide resources and empowerment tools for young people, young workers and academics focusing on this area. Covering 17 areas, it stands as a starting point for thought and cooperation, and as such offers a chance to make improvements towards the ultimate goal of poverty eradication, by empowering the youth and making their voices heard by decision-makers and the private sector.

Find out more about YOUTH METRO on their website.

Please follow the CSI in Malta here.

Read more about all the projects of the People for Change Foundation in Malta here.

Posted in Country News, Europe, General Information | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A civil society success story from Kosovo

Posted by civilsocietyindex on October 14, 2010

The process of NGO Law amendment in Kosovo – a brief description of civil society involvement

Prishtina, Kosovo – October 2010

Prepared by Taulant Hoxha – Program Coordinator at Kosovar Civil Society Foundation (KCSF)

 Civil Society representative in the Governmental Working Group for the NGO Law drafting process

Even though civil society in Kosovo played a very important role during the apartheid time during the 90s, when the country was under Serbian occupation, the modern concept of civil society was introduced in Kosovo in 1999, after the liberation.

The large international presence, and in particular the need for easy funds for the after-war phase, created an excellent ground for a rapid growth of the number of NGOs, which were mostly working on the emergency, reconstruction, human rights and multi-ethnic reconciliation.

This immediate growth imposed the need of legal regulation of the sector, making the NGO regulation 1999/22 one of the very first regulations/laws of the UN administration in Kosovo. For that period, it was considered as a best practice in the region, introducing easy procedures for registering and numerous fiscal benefits for NGOs.

The first attempt of the domestic institutions to transform the regulation into a law dates back to 2005, when the Assembly adopted a new NGO Law, which was never signed by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) and thus never entered into force. The reasons for this blockage were restrictive provisions on the activities, registration and governmental monitoring of the NGOs.

The current Law on NGOs was adopted in February 2009, and civil society was involved in the process at the Assembly level, resulting with an acceptable law for both civil society and public institutions. However, only one year after its adoption, in March 2010 the NGO Law was again opened for amendments, officially because of some technical problems.

The initial proposed amendments by the government were considered too restrictive by civil society organizations, which advocated for their removal. These restrictions consisted on the proposals to:

–          exclude student NGOs, sports NGOs, microfinance institutions and universities registered as NGOs from the scope of this Law;

–          limit registration of NGOs to those which pursue a public benefit purpose, thus excluding the NGOs that pursue a mutual interest from the possibility to be registered;

–          limitations on property and resources of NGOs, through exclusion of real estate and personal estate from among the list of possible incomes of NGOs; and

–          non-proportional measures for failure to report on a number of requirements for NGOs with public benefit status , which will result on termination of NGOs. 

The Government invited civil society representatives to participate in the working group for this Law and the drafting is still in the process, with the Governmental Working Group concluding its work in late September 2010. The Governmental Working Group, is comprised of representatives from government, civil society, tax administration, customs and other relevant institutions, and it worked for two months to draft a Law according to European and international standards and without the above mentioned restrictions. The next phase is the Assembly Commission and plenary discussions, before its adoption and signature from the President.

To read the full article, click here: A Civil Society Success Story From Kosovo.

Posted in CIVICUS News, CSI Impact, Europe | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Can the Philippines ever recover?

Posted by civilsocietyindex on October 13, 2010

As the 100 day anniversary of Philippines new president Benigno Aquino passes, Sixto Macaseat, the executive director of the nation’s biggest development organisation, is reluctant to sing his praise. Rowena McNaughton writes.

IN his campaign for presidency less than five months ago, Benigno Aquino declared that henceforth corruption would no longer plague the Philippine government. The stance proved wildly popular with ordinary Filipinos, and not just because it was being touted by the son of one of the most admired presidents in the nation’s history, President Corazon Aquino, who replaced the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, when he was ousted by the People Power Revolution of 1986. Philippine society had long grown fatigued by their nation’s crumbling economy, growing inequality and rising poverty levels now set at a lofty 33 per cent. The presidential candidate’s promise of radical change seemed to augur a break from six years of corruption by the ruling Arroyo administration. Voters responded, and he won in a landslide.

The Philippine economy has certainly grown less grim during the reign of President Aquino, who last week celebrated 100 days in the top seat. His administration has attracted US$2.4 billion in fresh foreign investments and around 43,600 jobs have reportedly been created. The notoriously weak PSE (Philippine Stock Exchange) has morphed into being one of the best performing stock markets in Asia, and the nation’s international reserves are at a record high of US$52.3 billion. The government’s budget is now transparent. And importantly, the countries large civil society network feels a little less ignored than it was under the previous president.

 

But much of the movement is not occurring where the promises of change were made. The private armies remain, justice has not been provided for human rights abuses and military and police impunity has not been addressed. Since Aquino took office on 30 June, human rights organisations have reported the killings of three journalists and 16 leftists’ activists. There have been no convictions in the hundreds of politically motivated killings over the past decade in which security forces were implicated. Just three of the 19 recent killings have a suspect under investigation and there has been only one arrest.

Indeed, the poverty rate continues to climb, despite the rise in investment, as Sixto Macaseat, Executive Director of the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), the largest coalition of social development non-governmental organisations in the Philippines points out, This, he says, is because of the widening inequality gap.

Many support his scepticism: in a multi-layered performance review of president Aquino’s first 100 days, Amnesty international failed him in the area of human rights; Archbishop Oscar Cruz gave him a milk warm “C”; Alyansang Makabayan rated his tenure as disappointing and the National Union of Students of the Philippines said he had failed to live up to his promises.

Yet what has altered is, in many ways, behind the scenes. Macasaet attests that the new administration is “significantly” more transparent. Aquino has championed open dialogue between government and civil society organisations, for instance. But when it comes to reaching the targets of the Millennium Development Goals, Macasaet does not hold much confidence, stating that there is still no government strategy in place. “We have wasted so much time that we will have to do the work of 15 years in five years,” he says. “It’s not possible.” Maternal health, education and poverty remain key areas of concern.

A recent analysis on Aquino’s 100 days of presidency by Human Rights Watch argues that Aquino’s failure to decisively address ongoing human rights abuses jeopardises his stated commitment to justice. “Human Rights Watch urged Aquino to fulfil his campaign commitments to abolish private armies, provide justice for human rights abuses, and address impunity by the police and military. Aquino has yet to address these persistent problems with any long term measures,” the report concludes. “While Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has promised to create a “superbody” to investigate journalist killings, structural reforms to overcome police inaction rather than new ad hoc bodies are needed to investigate alleged political killings vigorously.”

On some specific promises, the report praises the change in dialogue but says it is still waiting for action: such as Aquino’s proposed 80 percent budget increase for witness protection program. Yet it notes with concern that, while Aquino has directed the security forces to take control of official parliamentary forces, properly train them, and ensure that all forces are insulated from political entities the old military regime remains. Aquino continues to defend the use of such forces, which often provide manpower for private armies and have a history of perpetrating rights abuses. As for tightening controls on weapon procurement by local government, there has been no change. The same goes for improving witness protection. Private armies still remain.

“Most of us want to believe he is genuine but it does still remain to be seen,” says Macaseat, who uses the term “democracy recession” to describe his homeland.

Sixto Macaseat is currently the Co-Chair of the Steering Committee of the Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA).

Posted in Asia, CIVICUS News, Country News | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Evaluating the CSI at the national level

Posted by civilsocietyindex on October 11, 2010

The current 2008-2010 phase of the Civil Society Index project is now drawing to a close, and, as a consequence, it will soon be time for the end of project national evaluations to be completed. There will be numerous stakeholders involved in this process: both from within CIVICUS and the country partners. These will include those directly involved in the implementation process of the project throughout the duration of the phase.

The main intention of the national evaluations is to assess whether the project was successful in achieving the objectives that it initially set out to achieve. First and foremost, these were to capture an accurate reflection of the state of civil society in the country and to create an empirical body of knowledge about civil society. Therefore we want to answer the following principal questions:

  • Did CSI as a project achieve what it set out to do?
  • Did the CIVICUS team assist in achieving this?
  • What were the experiences along the way?
  • What are the positive lessons learned?
  • What were the negative experiences?
  • Where are the areas for future project improvement?
  • What were the problems in implementation?
  • What were the problems in project design?
  • Are there any suggestions for the future CSI?
  • How did the project affect and impact on your organization, country, government and civil society?

Marking the end of a two-year participatory process, the evaluation reports aim to provide an accurate record of the demanding and challenging journey completed by all CSI implementing countries. As such, they will help CIVICUS and country partners reflect on lessons learned for the future.

Posted in CIVICUS News, CSI Impact, General Information, Reports | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

WELCOME!!

Posted by civilsocietyindex on October 7, 2010

CIVICUS CSI would like to welcome our newest member to the team, Olga Kononykhina.

Olga is a Russian citizen who joined CIVICUS in 2010 as a research intern. Olga’s background includes bachelor’s degree in Applied Sociology as well as master degree in Applied Mathematics and Informational Science. She is currently studying at the PhD program in Applied Mathematics and focuses on mathematical models of civic engagement and quality of life. She is also a Junior Researcher at the Center for Study of Civil Society and the Non-profit Sector (Russian CIVICUS partner at the Civil Society Index project) and teaches part-time at the State University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Welcome Olga!!

Posted in CIVICUS News, General Information | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Small states: why assessing civil society matters

Posted by civilsocietyindex on October 6, 2010

– By Mark Nowottny, CSI Project Coordinator –

In 2003-2006, the Civil Society Index was implemented in Cyprus, just one of the world’s 45 small states (World Bank). In the 2008-2010 phase, the Index is now being implemented in three: Bahrain, Cyprus, Malta. According to the World Bank and the Commonwealth, who have led much of the world’s international development work in small states, it is difficult to precisely define ‘small states’, although a threshold of 1.5 million people has become the usual benchmark. No single criteria, however, whether in geography, population, or economy, can necessarily definitively capture the nature of ‘smallness’, and others are often interchangeably included in work on small states (for example, the Commonwealth includes Jamaica, Lesotho, Namibia and Papua New Guinea in some groupings).

Development, we are often told, is about people. No wonder then that international development discourses – and the money of international NGOs and bilateral agencies – have tended to align themselves with the problems of countries where the millions reside. The 20 million people of the 45 small states represent just 0.4% of the population of developing countries worldwide (World Bank).

In recent years, the discourses of international development have started to be kinder to small states, particularly because a large number of them are also islands. The spectre of climate change threatens to overwhelm low-lying states in the Caribbean and Pacific, and the self-pronounced threat of Maldives’ obliteration has turned from irrational fear to international cause celebre.

Nevertheless, few other interventions have sought to confront the more negative afflictions of ‘smallness’. In the Pacific, thousands migrate to New Zealand, only to find themselves without job, without social inclusion, and without family. Left behind are island societies gutted of their best talent, drained of their brain. In the Caribbean, American television, music, films and values are broadcast across the few miles of sea that lies between, while local artists and cultural producers struggle to create a space for the young and restless to look at the here and to look at the now, and to make peace with the idea of remaining in – and building – their small island.

These themes – these challenges – that confront the millions of citizens in small states are timeless, and precede the trends and language of international development. Frantz Fanon, Marcus Garvey and Aime Cesaire knew of them when they wrote of the face of post-colonial smallness which was more akin to mental slavery. Earl Lovelace, perhaps more sympathetically, explored the way it made those in his beloved Trinidad and Tobago think and act. In Belize, thinkers like Assad Shoman and Evan Hyde understood that the newly independent country had to take possession of its own history and reflect on its own unique problems, not look at them in the light of other countries’ very different experiences.

In these small states, it might be initially hard to see why assessing civil society matters. Certainly, the numbers do not demand it. From a research perspective, what use anyway is an accurate empirical picture of civil society in a country where there are few donors ready to change the way they spend their few pennies?

An example of active citizenship in Cyprus: the Volunteer Network Project [Management Centre]

For the CSI, it matters because the project can offer a space for reflection, and for looking inward on the state of active citizenship. In focus groups, in surveys, and in the National Workshops, the Civil Society Index offers one small space – not enough by itself, but a start – for civil society to come together to reflect on what it is doing, what it looks like, where the challenges lie, and also where the opportunities and commonalities are. These spaces for national conversations exist more rarely than one might think. Just as a picture, a song, a film, or a dance can open a window for citizens into their own realities and world, so can a forum for reflection give space for citizens to look at their actions, the effect of these actions, and where they must go in the future.

Across the Caribbean, the Pacific and the small states of the world, citizens must play an active part in confronting their own unique challenges: climate change, small-scale import economies, crime and lack of social cohesion, brain drain and, finally, cultural anomie in the face of the potential for local cultural production. The solutions might just be there: making the most of a voice on the global diplomatic stage, concerning new technologies and the creative economy, and cultural policies.

Governments and international development actors will not step up to these challenges, and will certainly not do so alone. But citizens in small states – perhaps more than anywhere else – are capable of changing the domestic paradigms of development and the national discourses of social justice to suit their own realities better. To do so, they may just need to make more use of forums offering the space for internal reflection and the opportunity to move towards being at ease with oneself. Tools such as the Civil Society Index, led by and for civil society, can perhaps be one such weapon in their arsenal.

– Mark Nowottny –

Posted in CSI Impact, General Information | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

CSI 2008-2010 – End of Phase Approaching

Posted by civilsocietyindex on October 5, 2010

Following the pilot phase in 2000-2002 and the first implementation phase in 2003-2006, the CIVICUS Civil Society Index has been implemented by over 50 countries around the world since 2008. The current implementation phase, spanning from 2008 to 2010, has been a very rich and intensive participatory process. It will soon now will be coming to an end.

Almost two years after our current partners got selected to implement the CSI in their countries, many are now about to deliver the outputs of the project. Albania paved the way, by recently publishing its Analytical Country Report and Policy Action Brief – CSI for Albania. The period leading to the end of phase on 31 December 2010 is now set to yield many other Case Studies, Analytical Country Reports and Policy Action Briefs, bringing new valuable findings to the knowledge base on civil society.

Entering the home stretch of the project’s phase, the CSI National Coordinating Organisations (NCOs) have once again played a key role in successfully implementing the CSI in contexts that have sometimes been very demanding and challenging. The work and commitment of our local partners is essential to draw an accurate and deep assessment of the state of civil society around the world, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of civil society organisations, and above all to take actions for a better tomorrow.

The CSI team would like to congratulate all our partners for their ongoing work, their perseverance and their strong commitment to the CSI project, and looks forward to sharing more CSI findings and publications from CSI implementing countries in the coming weeks and months.

You can keep up to date with developments by following our blog regularly.

You can find out more about the current CSI implementation phase on the CSI website.

You can also find the full list of the countries currently implementing CSI here.

If you have any question about the Civil Society Index, please contact us on index@civicus.org

Posted in CIVICUS News, CSI Impact, General Information | Leave a Comment »

Special Resolution on Freedom of Association and Assembly

Posted by civilsocietyindex on October 4, 2010

Written by Ingrid Srinath, CIVICUS Secretary General

Last Thursday, there was a major victory for civil society. The UN Human Rights Council passed by unanimous consensus a resolution on “The Rights of Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association,” drawing to an end a hard-fought campaign by civil society groups, including the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), Article 19, World Movement for Democracy, and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

This is a major win for civil society globally. Freedoms of assembly and association are the key pillars of civil society space and fundamental to our very existence and operations. Currently faced with increasing attacks and shrinking space for its operations, this resolution gives hope that this trend is reversible. We are particularly heartened by the number of nations who supported this resolution (which had a total of 63 co-sponsors), even those whose record in this area are less than ideal.

Among other items, the resolution establishes a Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly to monitor and report on violations of these rights. For more information on the resolution, view our joint statement with the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL).

CIVICUS contributed to the initial development of this initiative as part of the Community of Democracies Working Group on Enabling and Protecting Civil Society – a group compromised of both governments and civil society organizations. It then engaged in and supported ongoing advocacy activities, in Geneva, South Africa and around the world up until the final vote at the Human Rights Council. From beginning to end, the adoption of this resolution clearly demonstrates the power of state-civil society partnerships.

CIVICUS would like to thank its members, partners and the many others who worked tirelessly with us to advocate for this resolution. It is a clear example of how civil society, pulling together, can achieve real results.

In solidarity,

Ingrid Srinath, CIVICUS Secretary General

Posted in CIVICUS News, General Information | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »