CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

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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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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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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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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Civil Society in Modernising Russia

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 30, 2011

The CIVICUS CSI is pleased to announce the publication of the Analytical Country Report from Russia. The CSI was implemented in Russia by the Centre for Studies of Civil Society and the Non-Profit Sector (CSCSNS) of the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow.

The significant economic, social and political changes of last 20 years have essentially transformed Russian civil society. Despite this, civil society had not still benefited from an adequate conceptual definition and description or a nuanced assessment of its status.

The diamond shows a relatively high score for the level of organisation of civil society. This proves that it is relatively institutionalised and stable, offering civil society a reasonable platform in which to do its work. However, the research also tells us that CSOs do not achieve a high degree of impact or significantly contribute to socio-political change in Russia, not least because of the lack of systematic interaction with authorities. This report therefore recommends that state authorities expand their interaction with CSOs and legislate to improve civil society’s environment.

The research tells us that participation in civil society activities is not a typical behavioural practice for citizens of Russia. Civic participation in Russia is limited and there are low levels of trust in CSOs. Therefore strengthening this sphere is recommended, through the use of modern methods of encouraging participation, promoting civil society work more widely, and raising awareness of the best practices of CSO activity. Civil society in Russia is also found not to be a reliable conductor by which society’s issues reach the elite and elite decisions find a way to feedback to society. It is recommended that this problem be addressed by an expansion of civil society interaction with authorities.

What is more, there is a necessity to promote and broaden the active work of CSOs and citizen participation by using modern methods of promoting participation, publicising civil society work and drawing attention to the best practices of CSO activity. Doing so will help to widen and broaden trust in CSOs.

The CSI project has offered a complex assessment of the state of Russian civil society for international comparison. The draft of this report has already been used as material for the organisation of public and expert discussions on the state of civil society. The provision of objective information on this sphere of Russia should promote keen interest in and increased knowledge about recent developments in Russian civil society, both amongst civil society activists and other stakeholders domestically and internationally. The distribution of this report will, we hope, provoke discussion about and greater public attention to the state of Russian civil society and civic activity.

To read the full report, click here

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Towards maturity: challenges for Slovenian civil society

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 24, 2011

CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) is pleased to the announce publication of the Analytical Country Report from Slovenia. The CSI was carried out in Slovenia by the Legal and Information Centre for NGOs, with the support of the Ministry of Public Administration. The main aim of the project was to promote and strengthen civil society through its assessment ad to develop recommendations and measures to improve it.

The Civil Society Diamond summarises the values of the quantitative indicators which represent the four basic dimensions of civil society, while the circle around it represents the fifth dimension, the external environment of civil society.

The research findings show that Slovenian citizens readily engage as members of CSOs and as volunteers, and that volunteering in particular is on the rise, as a result of efforts made by voluntary organisations to establish a regulatory framework to provide support for the development and implementation of voluntary work at national and local levels. However, when it comes to participation in political activities, it is clear that while political parties wield the greatest influence, as a result of low trust in them, very few people participate in their activities. When CSOs practice of their own values is examined, the report affirms that CSOs generally adhere to regulations regarding democratic decision making governance, labour regulations, codes of conduct and transparency and environmental standards, although they could do more to promote their adherence to these values. The report also finds that while CSOs are relatively independent of the state, the lack of substantial government funding, the modest funds they acquire from other sources and the constant struggle for grants awarded through public tenders greatly reduces CSO autonomy.

However, the analysis of the civil society sector in Slovenia shows that it has not yet reached a high level of development. Increasing the financial strength of CSOs and, consequently, their professionalisation, are the two key steps needed to develop the sector. In order to improve the state of the civil society sector, the government should both increase public financing of the sector, and also amend legislation to encourage funding from non-public sources, such as private donations from individuals and companies, thereby increasing the sector’s autonomy and independence. In order to facilitate the implementation of such changes, both the government and non-government sectors must reach a consensus on a clear-cut strategy for the development of the civil society sector. The report that concludes that the prerequisite for any of this to happen is to strengthen weak processes of civil dialogue in Slovenia.

To read the full report, click here
To read the accompanying Policy Action Brief, click here

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Building Identity: Future challenges for CSOs as professionals in the societal arena

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 16, 2011

CIVICUS CSI is pleased to announce the publication of the Analytical Country Report from Croatia. The Civil Society Index (CSI) project was implemented in Croatia by CERANEO – Centre for Development of Non-profit Organisations with support from the Croatia National Foundation of Civil Society Development, Ministry of Science, Education and Sports and the City of Zagreb. Croatia has participated in the CSI from its pilot phase in 2001, which has enabled it to create an unrivalled knowledge base about civil society in Croatia over a period of a decade.

As shown by the Croatia Civil Society Index diamond, the structure of civil society is fairly stable and moderately developed. The strongest dimension of civil society in Croatia is seen to be its level of organisation. The external environment is also assessed strongly, suggesting that there is a relatively enabling environment for civil society development. 

 

The study shows however that the future development of civil society is endangered by low levels of citizens’ participation. This is an important issue which needs to be addressed by greater promotion of civic virtues to the public, including through the education system.

 

Irregular and limited financing for CSOs also poses a threat for the stability of human resources and for the sustained employment of young, educated professionals. However, with sustainable programmes of financing and EU programmes of civil society support being introduced, it is reasonable to hope for improvements on this front. CSOs believe that Croatia’s accession to the EU has also created a real opportunity for them to participate in new regional processes, but they will need support in developing their capacity to do so.

 

Some of the recommendations made in the report for strengthening civil society in Croatia are to encourage CSOs to develop sustainable programmes for volunteers, and to push regional and local governments to establish transparent funding criteria, based on local development priorities. At the same time, civil society should be more proactive in promoting and advocating core values to the public, by working with the media as a partner. The expected implementation of EU policies and programmes, particularly in the fields of employment, social inclusion and regional development is seen as a significant opportunity to affirm civil society’s position as an important stakeholder and to advance its role in society.

 

To read the full report, click here.

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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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An Assessment of Georgian Civil Society

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 14, 2011

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is pleased to announce the publication of the Civil Society Index (CSI) Georgia Analytical Country Report. The CSI was implemented in Georgia by Caucasus institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD), with the support of the Open Society Institute.

The CSI research revealed that a majority of CSOs identify two value groups in Georgia. These are: a) a retrograde value system, which has totalitarian origins and mostly favours Northern (pro-Russian) orientation in foreign policy; and b) a democratic value system, which is perceived as Western (European and Euro-Atlantic) oriented. A majority of Georgian CSOs consider themselves as supporters of the latter.

The research identified the weaknesses of civil society in Georgia as including: a low impact on society, significantly low levels of organisation and a disenabling external environment due to the concentration of power with the authorities. The strengths of civil society mentioned included: organisational experience, dominance of democratic values among CSOs and potential for development.

A positive development that has recently emerged in the wake of the government’s diminishing credibility is that authorities have given a clear signal that they would like to cooperate more with civil society groups on numerous issues. Unfortunately, civil society has been substantially weakened in the last seven years and is thus no longer usually able to respond adequately to new challenges.

 CSOs pointed out two directions for further work. Firstly, actions that aim at “awakening”, activating and involving society to participate in social processes; and secondly, actions to put pressure on the Georgian government to commence/accelerate democratic reforms.

The research outlines two diverging scenarios for Georgia’s future. The optimistic scenario foretells an empowerment of democratic institutions within Georgia and the formation of a sustainable basis for the stable development of democratic institutions through international support and mobilisation of society as a whole. The pessimistic scenario however suggests further consolidations of authoritarian rule in Georgia as a potential threat, in conjunction with a deteriorating economy, high emigration, the domination of police structures and the increasing power of international criminal cartels (for example, drug and weapons smuggling).

 CSOs believe that only the support of further developments of the civil society sector may lead to the achievement of the optimistic scenario.

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

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