CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

Posts Tagged ‘CSI project’

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 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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A Snapshot of Civil Society in Mexico

Posted by civilsocietyindex on March 30, 2011

CIVICUS is pleased to announce the publication of the Analytical Country Report on the state of civil society in Mexico. The CSI was implemented in Mexico by Centro Mexicano Para La Filantropía CEMEFI and Iniciativa Ciudadana para la Promoción de la Cultura del Diálogo.

The report tells us that the complex development of civil society in Mexico has been marked by the political and social dynamics created by institutions as well as the unwritten rules of the party that governed for more than 70 years. Certain events have helped characterise the current state of Mexican civil society, such as the student movement of 1968, citizens’ efforts after the 1985 Mexico City earthquake and especially the movement surrounding the right to clean elections and multi-party democracy. This has enabled the consolidation of a sector that is diverse in its causes as well as in its internal dynamics and the mechanisms of its interaction with other actors.

In the case of Mexico, there is greater realisation of the Practice of Values and a weaker presence of Civic Engagement. Meanwhile, the values for the Level of Organisation and Perception of Impact are very similar. The fifth dimension, the External Environment, is represented by a circle that surrounds the diamond. It shows a potential for growth in civil society in accordance with the current conditions of the country.

Compared to previous decades Mexico has a better environment for enabling stable growth of civil society, although this is impeded by recent worsening conditions of personal insecurity, which will undoubtedly have a direct effect on the sector’s structure in the coming years.

Taking into account the dimensions that make up the diamond, it is clear that in spite of some perceptions shared at focus groups, at the national level Mexican civil society has the possibility of strengthening. The Civic Engagement dimension indicated the need to build up social capital with knowledge and interest in social causes, but also proved that Mexican society engages at the grassroots in social concerns that promote its personal and spiritual development. As to the Level of Organisation, it can be seen that citizens are capable of generating actions in special cases to develop a solution to a pressing problem, and that for such purposes it is not always necessary to create a formal organisation. Practice of Values was the dimension recording the highest scores, however, the standardisation of CSO practices and the codes governing them should be considered. Finally, regarding Perceived Impact, in spite of the existence of successful cases related to CSOs achieving impact on policies, there is still a need to create new mechanisms of influence to enable organisations to impact the public sphere more.

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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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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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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