CIVICUS Civil Society Index

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Civil societies in Madurodam

Posted by civilsocietyindex on June 6, 2011

April 29, 2011 – PSOin cooperation with CIVICUS has organized a seminar and workshop on the concept, relevance and use of the Civil Society Index (CSI). The day was attended by over forty key-staff from mostly PSOmember agencies. The relevance was clear from the reference that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made to the CSIin their guidelines on monitoring and reporting for civil society organisations.

In consultation with Partos, PSO took the initiative to invite key-staff of CIVICUS to the Netherlands and staged a seminar with representatives from government, private sector and civil society to reflect on the concept of civil society space. In three contributions each of the contributors gave their perspective on space for people, profit and power.


Clampdown on civil society
The seminar started with a welcome address by Margo Kooijman, Director ofPSO who welcomed CIVICUS as well as the active participation from thePSO membership and representatives of the Ministery of Foreign Affairs. The key-note address was delivered by Netsanet Demissie Belay, the Director of Policy and Research of CIVICUS, who gave an extensive update on the trends in civil society space and the international regulatory frameworks for civil society organisations. The evidence presented illustrates that despite current developments in the Middle East and Northern Africa, civil society space is still shrinking as it is suffering from securitization measures by governments legitimized by the fear of terrorist threats.

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Guinea Civil Society: Between Activity and Impact

Posted by civilsocietyindex on May 17, 2011

CIVICUS is pleased to announce the publication of the Civil Society Index (CSI) Analytical Country Report from Guinea. The project was implanted in Guinea by the National Council for Civil Society Organisations in Guinea (CNOSGC), in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and CIVICUS.

The CSI scores suggest amongst other things that overall, Guinean citizens have a fairly weak level of engagement in civil society actions, and that levels of citizen participation in civil society and the associational life of Guinea remain relatively low. This is due, the report suggests, either to a lack of knowledge about the notion of civil society and its role, or a lack of technical and financial resources to enable citizens to actively meet societal needs. Meanwhile the external environment dimension, assessing Guinea’s political and legal context, had the lowest score. This suggests that the Guinean state, relying on its political, constitutional and economic power, does not create a favorable environment for the development of civil society. It is important to note that during the CSI research process, the change of regime that occurred in 2009 will likely further affect the extent to which the Guinean environment enables civil society.

Some of the strengths of Guinean civil society highlighted in the report include the existence and diversity of CSOs, commitment by CSOs to their mandate to serve the vulnerable and poor, close proximity of CSOs to grassroots communities, and an effort to mainstream gender in programmes and policies. Weaknesses of civil society in Guinea include a poor understanding of the concept of civil society, political infiltration of some CSOs, low financial and human resource capacity, and an absence of self regulatory and transparency mechanisms.

Suggested recommendations endorsed by a national workshop held in Conakry on 9 April 2011 include developing a new national civil society communication and information network; instigating and adopting a new code of ethics; initiating a new advocacy strategy for the greater involvement of civil society in the development, implementation, funding, monitoring and evaluation of government policies and of decentralisation. They also suggested that the CSI study should be repeated periodically in order to track and assess trends and the direction of change in Guinean civil society.

To read the full report click here

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CSI Tanzania Report 2010

Posted by civilsocietyindex on May 11, 2011

CIVICUS is pleased to announce the publication of the Civil Society Index country report from Tanzania. The project was implemented in Tanzania by the Concern for Development Initiatives in Africa, ForDIA, with assistance from the United Nations Development Initiative (UNDP).

The implication of the report is that Tanzania civil society is growing and developing and is performing fairly well, but not strongly. While the structure of civil society is assessed as over the halfway mark, Tanzania recorded low scores for levels of non-partisan political action and CSO membership. Levels of self-regulation and participation in umbrella CSOs are also ranked low. Other challenges identified include inadequate resources, CSOs being largely urban based, lack of democratic leadership, and political interference in civil society activities as well as a lack of skilled personnel in the sector.  Strengths of the sector include the wide variety of CSOs covering a range of issues, promotion of joint advocacy efforts through umbrella organisations and political will from the government to recognise the activities of civil society.

Following the publication of the report in Tanzania, four national task teams have been set up to address the four dimensions covered by the CSI analysis: structure, environment, values and impact. Each team has five members, charged with developing a work plan and implementation strategy to address the weaknesses identified in the CSI report. With constitutional review underway in Tanzania, this process of strengthening civil society collaboration instigated by the CSI findings is timely.

To read the full report, click here

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Bulgaria National Workshop

Posted by civilsocietyindex on April 7, 2011

05 April 2011

Our Bulgaria CSI partner held their national workshop in Bulgaria to present their finding s on Bulgarian civil society as reported in the analytical country report for the CSI project in Bulgaria. Low trust in CSOs, weak links between the CSOs and the citizens; limited abilities to influence decisions and policy-making are the persistent traits of civil society development in Bulgaria

In the report discussed today, the most popular form of civic engagement proves to be sending SMS for a campaign. In addition, it appears that the citizens see the authentic voice of civil society through informal activist groups rather that the NGO.

The main findings of the report were presented by Desislava Hristova, the National CSI Coordinator and her presentation can be found here. Assya Kavrakova, the Programme Director, commented on the changed environment for civil society in Bulgaria after the country’s accession into the European Union. She said that the civic sector has been marginalised from the reform agenda and new issues of financial instability have risen. The gap between CSOs and the citizens is significant and the CSOs are dependent on the state due to the altered way of financing. Her findings can be found here.

The financial dependence of the sector on state funding also raises doubts of malpractice and corruption. This was said by Mr. Atanas Slavov, from the Institute for Direct Democracy, and he stated further that this mistrust in the state gives more legitimacy to NGOs, who should now consider effective ways to separate civil society from the state.

Over 90 organisations and partners took part in the workshop

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AGENDA Launches Civil Society Index CSI Report

Posted by civilsocietyindex on April 6, 2011

Actions for genuine Democratic Alternatives AGENDA have launched the Civil Society Index CSI Report on Liberia.
The CSI is a multi-dimensional action oriented research that a the Liberian Civil Society fewer than five dimensions: Civic Engagement, Level of organization, Practice of Value, perception of Impact, and External Environment.
The research implores series of tools including; focus group discussion, three population surveys, external actions civil society, coupled with the desk review of civil society literature and a national workshop.
The nine month project was funded by Trust Africa based in Dakar in Senegal, Humanity United based in California the USA, and CIVICUS- World Alliance based in South Africa. Guidance for the project came from a 20 member advisory committee which included members of Civil Society organizations, Private Sector, multinational organizations, international organizations and government agencies. The overall objectives o0f the Project was to establish an existence of an active and effective national and international platforms for knowledge based actions for strengthen of civil society.
The launch which coincided with the third anniversary celebration of AGENDA took place at a dinner held at a local hotel in Monrovia and brought together a cross section of civil society actors, government representatives, the business community, and the media.
AGENDA is a collaboration of local and international activists working together to promote citizen’s participation in the governance process

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Italian Civil Society: Facing new challenges

Posted by civilsocietyindex on April 4, 2011

Compared to the past edition of CSI, the value of the perception of impact is lower and the value of the level of organisation dimension (which in the previous methodology was called structure) is higher. Since civil society in Italy has not changed in the last four years, we think that this difference is due to the difference in the methodology for collecting information in the two iterations: the first edition was mainly a collection of secondary data to which a group of experts gave an assessment, whilst in this edition such information mainly came from the opinions of a sample of CSOs. The results are in line with typical witnessed attitudes of Italian CSOs, which tend to over-estimate what they do internally and under- estimate the impact of their actions. This is a behaviour that also emerged during the past edition of the research.

According to the results of this second edition, civil society in Italy is confirmed to be a mature and solid phenomenon.  The weakness points that require the utmost attention, as they emerged from the research, seem to be the ability to influence the attitudes and values of Italian society in general; the inclusion and management of diversity; the attention to immigrants and their need to practice citizenship into civil society organizations; the commitment to emerging problems in Italy, such as social mobility and the rule of law, the increase of international links needed to face globalization effects; and, of course, the enhancement of the political impact, which the research confirmed to be inversely proportional to the social impact.

Civil society in Italy is a mature and solid phenomenon, a permanent actor of the social, cultural, economic and political life of the country. Moreover it’s a phenomenon that enjoys of a favourable contest for its development. The values registered in each dimension are quite high and this evidence shows that Italian civil society has all the resources needed to solve the weaknesses highlighted in this research.

It’s interesting to reflect on the fact that comparing the internal and the external representation of civil society, it seems that CSOs tend to describe themselves as having in mind a model of political correctness (i.e. presence of code of conduct, collaboration with other organisations, democratic decision making process and so on) that is exactly what their observers and their interlocutors expect from them. The paradox is that external representation, coming from the opinion of the sample involved in the External perception survey and from the Advisory Committee, seems to be more adherent to the reality of the phenomenon. Again, as was the case in the first edition of the project, a sort of inferiority complex on the part of CSOs emerges here that is the cause of the over-estimation of the formal aspect of the phenomenon and the under-estimating of the impact on Italian society

The CSI was implemented in Italy  by Cittinanza Attiva (Active Citizenship) and the Active Citizen Foundation (FONDACA)

To read the full report, click here

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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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Civil society in Morocco: ripe for change?

Posted by civilsocietyindex on April 4, 2011

CIVCUS is pleased to announce the publication of the Civil Society Index Analytical Country Report from Morocco. The report, authored by L’Espace Associatif in Morocco, was made possible by the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Social Development, Family and Solidarity in Morocco.

The report presents a picture of a country with a credible and effective civil society sector, but one which operates within some strict parameters. As the report puts it, “Freedom of speech is limited by ‘red lines’ imposed on all kinds of media (from written press to mass media). Those ‘red lines’ are the King’s sanctity, Western Sahara and Islam.”

The Civil Society Diamond resulting from the CSI gives a visual expression of the five dimensions that the CSI studies, presenting a more optimistic picture than the initial perceptions of the Advisory Committee. In the diamond, the perception of impact dimension gets the highest score (61.8%), ahead of the practice of values dimension (59.2%). The external environment for civil society is ranked slightly worse (57%), while the level of organisation (50.5%) and civic engagement (43.1%) get the lowest scores. In absolute terms, when compared to the maximum theoretical score of 100%, these performances remain modest.

Turning to the strengths and weaknesses of civil society, the report finds that the three main assets CSOs have are proximity and involvement in citizenship, a track record in social and human development, and credibility, independence and a willingness to engage. The key deficits reported are inadequate financing, opportunistic behavior, and lack of independence and favoritism.

In addressing these obstacles, CSOs suggest they need to improve their efficiency in searching for financing, to improve their human resources skills and bases, and to promote more active civic engagement. Significantly, the report notes that improvement in the legislation for civil society is also needed.

The CSI report, a milestone for the North African country at a time of potential upheaval, reveals a picture of a Morocco civil society which has experienced huge and diversified development and which is founded on participation and volunteer work, with its purpose and impact highly valued by both the population in general and key external stakeholders.

This high potential for development is however held back by lack of finance, lack of workforce, and the barriers these present to autonomy and professionalisation.

The focus of global attention shifted to North Africa and the Middle East while this report was being prepared. Coming at a critical moment, this report casts new light on citizen action in Morocco, suggesting that the path ahead for positive transformational change lies in collective work, shared structures and democratic partnership.

To read the full report, click here.

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Better Governance for a Greater Impact: A call for citizens

Posted by civilsocietyindex on April 4, 2011

CIVICUS is pleased to announce the publication of the CSI Analytical Country Report from Kosovo. The project was implemented in Kosovo by the Kosovar Civil Society Foundation (KCSF), with financial support from Balkan Trust for Democracy.

 The report, entitled “Better Governance for a Greater Impact: A call for citizens”, highlights the importance of citizens working towards enhanced governance if civil society is to achieve its full impact in Kosovo. 

In evaluating itself through CSI, Kosovar civil society has been highly self-critical, although Kosovo is facing a unique transition and state-building period which impacts all levels of society. Awareness on their weaknesses should be a very positive starting point if matched with a commitment by citizens and all sectors to address these in the future. Some of the most important weaknesses identified in the report include a lack of motivation and information on civic engagement, problems in responding to the priority needs of citizens, unconsolidated public image of the sector, and low level of functioning of rule of law. On the other hand, the main strengths include the existence of standards of good governance on paper, a high level of solidarity among people, international presence in Kosovo and a solid level of awareness for values which are to be respected and promoted.

Specific recommendations of the report include renewed effort to increase the connection between civil society and citizens, to establish internal structures for better governance, and to create formal cooperation mechanisms with public authorities.

Civic engagement scored the second lowest of the five CSI dimensions, indicating a high level of apathy of citizens towards public life in general. The low level of membership and volunteering in civic initiatives confirms the gap between citizens and CSOs, which still do not build on the potential seen at higher levels of non-formal and individual activism.

The Level of Organisation resulted as the highest dimension in CSI, showing that Kosovar civil society is characterised by a solid degree of institutionalisation. Formal governance and management systems are in place but a strong need remains for their better implementation in practice. 

The findings on Practice of Values show that while democratic decision-making governance is strongly emphasised in the internal documents of the civil society sector in Kosovo, this is not always translated into proper implementation of these principles in practice.

The Perception of Impact resulted as the lowest scoring dimension, although with significant differences between social impact and policy impact,. While Kosovo’s civil society has a moderate impact on social issues, the impact on policy-making is lower. Significantly, the impact of civil society in priority issues of Kosovo society is low, indicating that civil society is not sufficiently responsive to the real needs of society and its constituencies.

The External Environment does not represent a very encouraging prospect for the operation of civil society in Kosovo. Standing as one of the poorest countries in Europe with almost half of the population unemployed, Kosovo’s economy is characterised by a large informal sector, and still remains largely dependent on remittances and donor aid. However, associational rights and legal framework on civil society result more positive. With low interpersonal trust and high public spiritedness, tolerance stands somewhere in between, showing the Kosovar society as moderately tolerant, in particular towards different religious and ethnic groups.

The Kosovo CSI partner also compiled a Policy Action Brief that details some of the recommendations to improve the state of civil society based on the findings of the ACR.

To read the full report, click here. and to read the Policy Action Brief, click here.

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Restrictions and the politicisation of civic space: challenges for civil society in Nicaragua

Posted by civilsocietyindex on April 1, 2011

The Civil Society Index (CSI) was implemented in Nicaragua by La Red Nicaraguėnse por la Democracia y el Desarrollo Local (RNDDL – Nicaraguan Network for Democracy and Local Development), along with CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS).

The key finding of the CSI study in Nicaragua relates to the external environment dimension, which assesses the conditions within which civil society operates. This was the lowest score of all five dimensions in the Nicaraguan CSI, and the report notes that the situation shifted rapidly during the process of the research study. Two contradictory trends are revealed. Over the last few decades, many CSOs have promoted human rights and citizen participation in public administration, in particular for vulnerable groups such as women, children and indigenous peoples. After concerted campaigns, a series of laws were passed favouring political democratisation, such as the law of citizen participation and the public information access law, in an effort to strengthen spheres of dialogue and negotiation with the state. But at the same time, and contradicting this democratisation process, the major political parties made a pact to dole out state powers and set electoral rules that suit them. The report suggests that disregard of the rule of law and the application of rigged laws has been a historical trend, in which the current government participates.

Nicaragua’s national context is undoubtedly unfavourable for civil society to flourish, given its high levels of poverty, inequality, corruption, and economic stagnation resulting from the current crisis in global capitalism. Politically, the state is seen to have little capacity to carry out basic functions. Laws are considered restrictive due to difficulties in obtaining legal status, and discriminatory fiscal control methods are applied according to party affiliation of CSOs. One third of CSOs surveyed said they had been the victims of aggression by the local or national government over the last 10 years, including abuse of power, restrictions on strikes and mobilisations, aggression and depravation of liberty, injury and libel, the closure of legal spheres of participation and violations of human and civil rights. The situation has worsened with the arrival of a new administration in 2007 that has implemented a system to exclude social organisations and that has limited rights of association, expression and cooperation of non-affiliated CSOs.

The picture painted in the report is therefore one of contrasts. Civil society has a great number of strengths, practising the values that it promotes, achieving significant impact, and with a fairly well developed infrastructure. However, civic space is fundamentally challenged by the political environment in Nicaragua. Political and legal restrictions and attacks on civil society, both formal and subtle, create difficult operating conditions. Civic space has become highly politicised, threatening to subject the everyday activities of CSOS to their affinity – or lack of affinity – with the ruling party. Until steps are taken to depoliticise civic space and safeguard civil society against attacks from government, the report concludes that civil society will continue to struggle to realise its full potential and build on its strengths.

To read the full report, click here

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