CIVICUS Civil Society Index

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Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

The Contemporary Jordanian Civil Society: Characteristics, Challenges and Tasks

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 31, 2011

CIVICUS is pleased to announce the publication of the Civil Society Index Analytical Country Report from Jordan. The Project was implemented through the collaboration of Foundation for the Future, Al-Urdun Al Jadid Research Center (UJRC-Jordan), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and CIVICUS.

 

The report finds that the political openness which Jordan has seen since 1989, despite fluctuations, has led to a better environment for the growth of CSOs in which they have been able to practice their activities more freely. Increased political openness also bolstered international attention in Jordan’s civil society and granted it important sources of support.

Jordanian civil society has a diverse structure and is mostly independent, both financially and administratively. The majority of civil society reports that it enjoys acceptable infrastructure and communication capacities, with the exception of organisations working in rural and remote areas. In addition, CSOs tend to have capacity to work with the media.

As for weaknesses, the general environment CSOs operate in is seen to be politically conservative and biased in favour of the state playing an interventionist role in civil society’s affairs, which in turn weakens potential for impact. The majority of CSOs have poor practices of leadership turnover and limited financial transparency, while negative perceptions of foreign funding affect public confidence in CSOs. Civil society’s collective capability to launch a dialogue with the state, the private sector and foreign donors is weakened in the absence of a holistic national action strategy. Challenges for civil society have been exacerbated by the recent economic downturn which has exposed some structural weaknesses in Jordan’s economy, bringing high rates of poverty and unemployment, and income inequality particularly affecting women.

Amongst recommendations made by the report are the setting up of a new good governance and leadership institute for civil society; developing incentives to attract people into volunteering, particularly young people and women; prioritising women’s empowerment projects by civil society; and encouraging the study of civil society’s contribution to GDP. They also call on the government to establish an independent commission for Jordanian civil society.

To read the full report, click here

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Guide for Strengthening Civil Society: CSI In Kazakhstan

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 30, 2011

The CIVICUS Civil Society Index is pleased to announce the release of the Analytical Country Report on the state of civil society in Kazakhstan. The project was implemented in Kazakhstan with the cooperation of the Public Policy Research Centre and CIVICUS.

The Civil Society Index Diamond (see Figure 1 below), summarises the strength of four core dimensions of civil society in Kazakhstan (Civic Engagement, Level of Organisation, Practice of Values and Perception of Impact). The circle around the diamond represents the fifth dimension, the External Environment within which civil society operates. The diamond’s size shows an empirical picture of the state of civil society, the conditions that support or inhibit civil society’s development, as well as the consequences of civil society’s activities for society at large. The overall picture revealed by the Civil Society Index Diamond is one of a moderately developed Kazakhstan civil society.

The report identifies key strengths and weaknesses of civil society in Kazakhstan. Principal strengths include the flexibility of CSOs, openness to networking and exchanging information, and some successes in promoting values such as religious harmony and better relations between ethnic groups. CSOs in Kazakhstan tend to be well organised and motivated, and familiar with social needs, and they are often well grounded in the local environment and concerns. A general wish exists among CSOs to participate in civil dialogue, and the fact that CSOs demonstrate some expertise to advance policies continues to be a real asset on which Kazakhstan civil society can build.

Some of the weaknesses identified by the research include the absence of a participatory democracy and low standard of living in Kazakhstan which prevents people from engaging more with civil society activities, something that can be seen in the low levels of volunteering. CSOs in Kazakhstan also lack sustainable human resources and have short-term financial plans which demands some trade off between values and operations. There is limited transparency around the use of public funds, and unfair competition in public funding, which risks the credibility of the sector, while a limited culture of philanthropy means it is hard to find other funding sources. Cooperation between the government, civil society and the private sector also remains weak all round, with state authorities interfering with CSOs and treating them unequally.

Recommendations to improve the state of civil society: amendments to existing government legislation to establish criteria for the work of CSOs in the public interest, open competition for state funding, and more work by CSOs to educate citizens about civil dialogue and encourage greater activism.

Some of the weaknesses identified by the research include the absence of a participatory democracy and low standard of living which prevents people from engaging more with civil society activities. CSOs in Kazakhstan also lack sustainable human resources and have short-term financial plans which demands that some values be sacrifices.  Cooperation between the government, civil society and the private sector also remains weak, with state authorities interfering with and threatening CSOs.

Recommendations to improve the state of civil society were discussed with a wide range of stakeholders at the CSI National Workshop and regional focus group meetings. Some of then were: amendments to existing government legislation to establish criteria for work of CSOs in public interest, make funding for state social contracts open and transparent, attempt to create employment opportunities through more stable funding and for CSOs to increase efforts to educate citizens about civil dialogue, and activism with the belief that they can make a change.

To read the full report, click here.

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Japan Civil Society at a Crossroads

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 30, 2011

The CIVICUS CSI is pleased to announce the publication of the Analytical Country Report from our partner in Japan. The CSI was implemented between 2008 and 2010 in Japan by the Center for Nonprofit Research and Information (CENPRI) and the Osaka School of International Public Policy

The report finds that the modern concept of civil society in Japan was only introduced in recent years, despite its existence since early history. In 1998, the Law to Promote Specified Nonprofit Activities (NPO law), the first law to promote civic activities with minimum government intervention, was enacted, and this saw a burgeoning of the sector. With more than a decade now passed since the law, Japanese civil society sector finds itself at a crossroads, where decisions of civil society and government will determine whether it can become an influential sector to make society better or whether it will not be able to meet the growing expectations.

The comparison of scores for each dimension with other countries participating in the CSI project revealed that Japanese civil society has a high perceived impact, well established organisations and a favorable environment for civil society. On the other hand, as weaknesses, it is found that Japanese CSOs do not always perform well in practicing core values. The research raises concerns about poor working conditions for employees, and low awareness about environmental issues, while despite the higher score, the Level of Organisation dimension requires attention to organisations’ financial instability and the lack of sustainable human resources. Low levels of political engagement are also a cause for concern.

Finally, although the External Environment dimension scored remarkably high, indicating that civil society has space to develop, there are concerns, such as low levels of public trust, that should influence the level of association. Additionally, this dimension pointed out missing important issues to be addressed, such as civic education and reform of the taxation system.

The report, compiled before the recent tragic earthquake, overall paints a picture of a civil society that is committed, robust, and encouragingly ready to play its part in addressing the challenges that Japan now faces.

To read the full report, click here

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Civil Society in Turkey: At a Turning Point

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 28, 2011

The CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) is pleased to announce the publication of the 2010 Analytical Country Report from Turkey. The project was made possible by the collaborative efforts of CIVICUS and Third Sector Foundation of Turkey (TUSEV).

A close look at the research findings shows civil society’s growing impact, expanding areas of activity and impressive initiatives to address some of Turkey’s most pressing social and political concerns. When compared to two decades ago, civil society’s arena and its organisations’ development have reached impressive heights.

In this context, the previous CSI study (2006) pictured civil society in a conceptual and operational era of transition. Although research findings then showed more weaknesses than strengths, they also pointed towards some opportunities and potential for civil society actors to tackle the country’s democratisation and development goals.

The current CSI study (2010) continues to show civil society in Turkey in an era of transition with more weaknesses than strengths. Although some of the opportunities that were pointed out in the first study have been addressed, the acceleration of civil society’s transition has decreased. The persistence of some major weaknesses is worrisome and points towards future obstacles. As such, the CSI study portrays civil society in Turkey facing a major turning point: it will either build on its strengths to deepen its role as an indispensable actor in social and political life in Turkey; or it will enter a period of stagnation that is bound by its persistent weaknesses.

A comparative look at civil society’s strengths and weaknesses over time shows that there have been improvements in some areas while others have failed to progress. For instance, the socio-political and socio-economic environments, along with relations with the private sector, continue to offer strengths for civil society in Turkey. The increase in volunteering and membership rates in terms of participation, access to technology and support infrastructures, and a tendency not to associate civil society with negative values all show signs of improvement. However, the deep but narrow trends of participation, the minimal funding base of most CSOs and the significant regional differences within Turkey are all areas with need further attention.

To read the full report, click here

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An Assessment of Philippine Civil Society

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 23, 2011

CIVICUS is pleased to announce the publication of the Analytical Country Report from the Philippines. The Civil Society Index (CSI) was implemented in the Philippines by the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO).

The scores for the Philippine diamond show a measure of about 60% for three of the dimensions and just over 40% for the Practice of Values dimension. Civic engagement had a high score, showing that more than 75% of the population participates in CSOs, with high levels of membership from marginalised ethno-linguistic groups and from Mindanao. However, participation in CSOs with political advocacy concerns is lower, but still quite respectable: about 25% of Filipinos participate in these types of organisations.

The Philippines civil society is seen as one of the most vibrant and active in Asia with its deep and expansive root in society as shown by the high level of participation. The 1987 Constitution, which was enforced after the 1986 citizen led non-violent and peaceful revolt, recognises the value of people’s participation. This high level of participation can be seen to ultimately lead to strong perceptions of the impact of CSO work in the areas of poverty reduction and environmental protection.

Despite these positives, CSOs report that their work is hampered by low levels of trust in Filipino society, including lack of trust in CSOs. There is a gap in CSOs having publicly available codes of conduct or ethics to guide their operations. This is also coupled with a perception of pervasive corruption and is related to weak board governance within the NGO sector.

Some of the recommendations cited to improve civil society in the country were: to strengthen governance mechanisms within CSOs, develop consensus on labour and environmental standards for CSOs and to improve the financial and human resource capacity of CSOs.

 To read the full report, click here

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Press Statement: CIVICUS condemns crackdown on Civil Society in Bahrain

Posted by civilsocietyindex on December 13, 2010

  

Johannesburg. 10 December 2010. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is deeply concerned about the deteriorating operating environment for civil society in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The past few months have been marred by growing intolerance towards dissenters, which began in the run up to the October elections and continues in the post election phase.

Authorities in Bahrain are waging a relentless campaign against activists whose views are not in line with the official position. Currently, 24 prominent human rights defenders are facing trial under Bahrains anti-terrorism laws. They have been charged with collaborating with foreign organisations and circulating false information. They have also been accused of forming terrorist networks, destruction of public and private property and defaming the authorities.

The arrested activists have complained about torture and abuse meted out to them by the National Security Agency. They have so far appeared in court on four occasions and the next hearing has been scheduled for 23 December. During their first appearance in court on 27 October, detainees informed the court that while in detention they were beaten, electrocuted, verbally and physically assaulted and denied adequate sleep. Those detained were not allowed access to legal representation during interrogation and some family members did not know where they were being detained for two weeks after their arrest. It has also been reported that prior to, during and after the elections about 350 other activists have been arrested.

In a worrying trend, it has become commonplace in Bahrain to arrest activists for writing articles and delivering speeches which are critical of the governments discriminatory policies and official corruption, said Netsanet Belay, CIVICUS Director of Policy and Research. Persecution and torture of public-spirited individuals offering legitimate criticism against official policies and the clampdown on their organisations amounts to a repudiation of Bahrains accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture.

The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), a CIVICUS partner for the Civil Society Index and one of the few remaining independent groups striving for the protection of civil and political freedoms in the country, has been targeted in the recent crackdown. On 6 September, the Ministry of Social Development issued an order to dissolve the Board of the BHRS and went ahead to appoint an administrator  an employee from the Ministry  to lead the BHRS. The BHRS has had to go to court in response to these arbitrary actions and its fate currently depends on the courts response. The first hearing of the case scheduled for 26 October has been postponed to 4 January 2011.

According to Abdullah Aldorazi of BHRS, the unfair order issued by the Ministry of Social Development to dissolve the Board of the BHRS is a security strategy aimed at preventing the documentation of atrocities carried out by the authorities during the crackdown and preventing families of the detainees from using the society as a safe haven.

CIVICUS urges the authorities of the Kingdom of Bahrain to live up to their commitments under international law and guarantee civil society the space to freely express, associate and assemble.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) Project of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world.

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Armenia: Reason for optimism emerges from CIVICUS CSI report

Posted by civilsocietyindex on December 8, 2010

 

CIVICUS is pleased to announce that the second Analytical Country Report of this phase (2008-2010) of the Civil Society Index has been completed. The report, entitled Armenian Civil Society: From Transition to Consolidation, is one milestone marking the completion of the CSI in Armenia. Counterpart International Armenia implemented the project with the support of international organisations USAID/Armenia, UN Volunteers and OSCE and others.

The report, based on a variety of research sources including three quantitative surveys, shows that civil society in Armenia is moving towards consolidation. While the “Level of Organisation”, “Practice of Values” and “External Environment” dimensions of what is known as the CSI diamond are all fairly balanced, the “Civic Engagement” and “Perception of Impact” dimensions score below average (37.4% and 32.8% respectively). Further findings attribute the lag in Civic Engagement to weak levels of citizen participation, particularly for socially-based engagement (11.9%). Similarly low scores in the perceived impact achieved by civil society reflect civil society’s weak impact on social attitudes (15.2%).

 In terms of their organisation, Armenian CSOs have in many cases successfully established formal management systems, membership networks, growth and communication access. Likewise, the “Practice of Values” dimension suggests that despite the concerted efforts made by Armenian CSOs to promote their internal values, more effort is needed to make these practices and values a reality. The “External Environment” dimension for Armenian civil society suggests that state-civil society and private sector-civil society partnerships prosper where symbiotic linkages have propelled them out of the corrupt environment which has plagued Armenian civil society for a long-time.  

 Although the space for Armenian civil society faces issues of corruption, weak social capital, political patronage and clientelism, the report argues that there is significant room for optimism about the future of civil society in Armenia. In particular, the government’s willingness to work with civil society signals a determination by the country as a whole to work together towards developing a larger space for civil society in the country.

 CIVICUS would like to commend the National Implementing Team (NIT) in Armenia for the hard work they put into compiling the report and implementing the project.

 To access the full report, please click here

 

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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.

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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).

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Armenia Case Study: Impact of Environmental Organisations on Policy Change

Posted by civilsocietyindex on August 30, 2010

The CIVICUS Civil Society Index Partner in Armenia, Counterpart International, has published their case study on the Impact of Environmental Organisations on Policy Change in Armenia. This case study was conducted as part of the CIVICUS Civil Society Index programme that Counterpart International implemented in Armenia. The study looks into the lobbying and campaigning that the environmental CSOs do in order to get their issues on the decision makers’ agendas. Armenia CSOs relationship with governmental entities has improved through this lobbying and government increasingly solicits CSOs input on various policies that have environmental implications.

 

The study found that environmental CSOs have a wide range of partners they work with in Armenia and abroad and this has given them the ability to lobby and campaign for policy change with more support. In order for the CSOs to be more effective, it was found that it was imperative that they use a proactive strategy and not one that is reactive to the policies already  implemented.

To read the full case study click here IMPACT-Eng_web

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