CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

Citizen actions without engagement: Bulgaria Analytical Country Report

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 15, 2011

Bulgaria has recently concluded a second successful implementation of the CIVICUS CSI project. The first round was completed in 2005 with the publication of the report ‘Civil Society without Citizens’. Now the new CSI report on Bulgaria: Citizen Actions without Engagement brings the story up to date. The new report was implemented between 2008 and 2010 by the Open Society Institute using the latest methodology, which although it varies from the first, still offers the ability to make comparisons between the state of civil society in 2005 and its state. Today more than 20 years after the fall of communism and three years following accession to the European Union.


Of the 5 dimensions that were used to assess Bulgarian civil society, civic engagement scored the lowest with 40.5% out of 100. This would seem to present a continuing challenge for civil society in the country, as the dimension had a low score in the previous CSI report. The Bulgaria report raised issues such as low levels of participation in CSOs, low perceived impact of CSOs in Bulgarian society as well as low levels of trust in public institutions as some of the challenges that CSOs face in Bulgaria. Corruption was raised as one of the issues that cause citizens to have low levels of trust in public institutions.

However, there are more positive aspects of Bulgarian civil society reported, such as their influence in education, environmental activism and support for vulnerable groups, as well as a high level of internal perception about the democratic governance in CSOs and favourable socioeconomic and political conditions for civil societies to operate. The report also examines the impact of Bulgaria’s recent membership of the EU on conditions for civil society, and concludes that while EU membership has led to a potential expansion of opportunity for civil society, in practice there is a serious issue about who gets to access, and benefit from, EU funding.


Recommendations suggested by the report to address the challenges faced by civil society in the country include actions to: facilitate communication between CSOs and citizens, such as instituting public civil panels; improve the possibilities for CSOs to participate in decision and policy making by seeking legislative changes; and improve connections between Bulgarian CSO and European networks by creating new focal points.


The CIVICUS CSI team would like to commend the OSI Sofia European Policies and Civic Participation programme, the UNDP Bulgaria, and the Balkan Assist Association for the all the hard work they put into compiling the report.


To read the full report, click here


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