CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

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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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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Deepening democracy: civil society in Chile

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 31, 2011

CIVICUS is pleased to announce the publication of the Civil Society Index Analytical Country Report from our partner in Chile. The project was implemented in Chile by Fundacion Soles, with sponsorship from the Bicentennial Commission.

In general terms, the CSI Diamond for Chile’s civil society showed moderate values for most of the ‘internal’ dimensions (Civic Engagement, Level of Organisation, Practice of Values and Perception of Impact), corresponding to a medium level of development. The score for the External Environment, on the other hand, suggests a more favorable arena for the advancement of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

Chile reports that it seems now to have passed the stage of democratic transition, and has strengthened mechanisms for formal elections and internal auditing. In general terms, it is an organised state with levels of corruption under control. Despite the weaknesses that remain from the previous coup d‘état and a dictatorship, civil society has had relative success in the process of associative reconstruction. New organisations, many of them based on information and communication technologies, have opened new spaces of citizen participation. However, the internal inequality of Chile’s civil society is one of the greatest challenges to the consolidation of a sustainable civil society and, in turn, a more profound and deeper democracy. To the degree to which it is possible, Chile’s civil society is looking for a space in general society, and is trying to create alliance mechanisms with the state and the market, without ceasing to offer an authentic, autonomous and credible voice.

In the regional and national workshops which formed part of the CSI project, participants discussed key strengths of Chilean civil society, which include diversity among CSOs, the high commitment of most civil society representatives, the creation of networks with the support of ICT and, especially, the local impact of CSOs. The main weaknesses identified by participants included civil society’s capacity to promote training, challenges associated with civic education for society at large, and limited capacity to implement competitive and sustainable projects or to improve external cohesion. Participants also formed a number of recommendations which are made in the report. For example, in order to improve external cohesion, one suggestion was to create a training space to help civil society leaders and representatives define themselves and the sector as a third party, deserving of conditions equal to those of the state and the private sphere.

To read the full report, click here

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The State of Civil Society in Rwanda in National Development

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 31, 2011

The CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) is pleased to announce the publication of the CSI report from Rwanda. The project was implemented in Rwanda by the Conseil de Concertation des Organisations d’Appui aux Initiatives de Base (CCOAIB), with financial support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

As far as civil society structure is concerned, the study looked at a number of indicators pointing to the breadth of citizen participation, charitable giving, volunteering, collective community action, civil society activities, civil society membership and civil society geographical distribution. Generally, weaknesses prevail within this area, with only charitable giving and collective community action appearing to be strong.

Against this, on the whole, Rwandan civil society is felt to adhere strongly to positive values, such as anti-corruption, gender equity, poverty eradication, tolerance and democracy promotion. However, the study also reveals that Rwandan civil society has weak spots around encouraging governmental transparency and environmental protection.

Some of the recommendations that the report makes include improving partnership between the state, private sector and civil society, strengthening CSO voices in lobbying and advocacy, find ways of minimising dependence on and influence by external donors by strengthening and diversifying domestic fundraising techniques, and concentrating on ways of boosting the capacity of civil society to hold the government accountable for its decisions.

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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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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Status of civil society in Zambia

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 30, 2011

CIVICUS is pleased to announce the publication of the Civil Society Index (CSI) Analytical Country Report on the state of civil society in Zambia. The country implementing team for Zambia used multiple methods which combined primary and secondary data to gather information. Three surveys were conducted: a Population Survey, an Organisational Survey and an External Perception Survey. Besides these, a combination of other outputs was included, such as five case studies. These focused on different aspects of civil society, including its sectoral and geographical coverage, accountability, impact on policy and corporate social responsibility. The research measured the five core dimensions of the CSI: Civic Engagement, Level of Organisation, Practice of Values, Perceived Impact and External Environment. The five dimensions are represented in the Civil Society Diamond below:                        

All the dimensions received similar scores in a range between 57.11% and 60.79%. 

The relatively low score for civic engagement has been credited to the fact that most people in Zambia spend more time dealing with meeting the pressing need of making a living in a country with widespread poverty. Despite this low involvement however, civil society in Zambia is very organised with established infrastructure and communication, however there are still problems in terms of transparency in CSO decision making as well as financial and human resources challenges. CSOs in Zambia are seen to practice democratic values, and to have significant involvement in policy processes, despite the lack of institutionalisation of their participation. In as far as the external environment is concerned, it was found that the socio-economic, political and cultural context is not enabling the full realisation of essential civic and political liberties.

A revision of the NGO Act is cited as one of the recommendations in the report in order to accommodate the various types of CSOs in Zambia. It is also suggested that Zambian CSOs should lobby government to institutionalise citizen involvement in the policy making process. Dialogue between state and civil society is needed particularly on issues of governance, participation, human rights and the rule of law.

The Civil Society Index (CSI) was implemented in Zambia by the Zambian Council for Social Development, with financial support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and technical support form the CIVICUS CSI Team.

 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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