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BCSDN Newsletter 64, June - September 2016
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NEWSLETTER  #64









Dear partners and colleagues,
 

Our summer has been quiet, but well spent on strategizing and preparing for some of the key activities taking place this autumn. Our annual policy workshop  in Brussels has again reminded the European institutions of the challenges civil society in Enlargement countries is facing. Moreover, the growing extent of challenges and retrograde trends have been the background of an internal network discussion on how to tackle this in the future via our monitoring and advocacy. Our network has also been proud to host 9 global accountability networks for a joint meeting in Belgrade in July. The meeting finalized the first global reference standard on CSO accountability and with organizing wide country consultation (on-line and meetings) during this autumn we will enable the experience of CSOs from the Balkan region to contribute and learn on CSO accountability, an issue which is receiving increased attention from CSOs, public institutions and donors as a response to shrinking civic space and needs for strengthening relations with local communities and citizens. Read the latest edition of our Newsletter for this and many more other important developments on civil society development.

Enjoy your read,
Tanja Hafner Ademi
Executive Director

ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Next BCSDN Board session, 2nd December Skopje
The next BCSDN Board Session has been scheduled for the 2nd December in Skopje. As per usual, the Board meets at the end of each year to discuss the draft  Annual Report 2016 and Annual Plan of the network for 2017. Issued to be discussed are also: the Code of Conduct, Strategy and multi-annual funding roll out as of 1st January, 2017.
 

UPCOMING

  • Launching Consultation on the Global Standard for CSO Accountability in the Balkans
The Global Standard for CSO Accountability has been created by 9 CSO accountability initiatives from across the world including BCSDN aimed at presenting one coherent referent document on how CSO can improve their accountability practices. By the end of October 2016, several consultation meetings on the draft Standard will be held in Albania (20th Oct), Kosovo (19th Oct), Macedonia (17th Oct) and Serbia (21st Oct) in collaboration with BCSDN members and relevant organizations and multipliers. Meanwhile, an online consultation has been launched by BCSDN open to all interested CSOs around the region by Thursday, 10th November.
 
  • Completing the Triangle: Enabling Environment Self-assessment Tool for Governments 
BCSDN and ECNL have made another step further in developing mechanisms for cooperation between CSOs and Governments in Enlargement countries by designing a Government Self-Assessment Tool on the Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development. The tool has been developed in response to Governments open expression of the need for the existence of a practical and effective tool that public institutions can use for monitoring, tracking and improving national-level measures for civil society development. The development of the tool is one of the activities of the EU and BTD funded “Balkan Civil Society Acquis-Strengthening the Advocacy and Monitoring Potential and Capacities of CSOs and the 3rd and last pillar of the triangle to be established for improving the dialogue on the advancement of the enabling environment.
 
  • Finalizing the Enabling Environment Monitoring: Publishing the 2016 Monitoring Matrix Country Reports

The most intensive phase of the annual monitoring of the enabling environment, in which CSOs work, has been launched by BCSDN and its partners. The 2016 monitoring cycle will focus on 12 core (of 24) standards of the Monitoring Matrix methodology for all countries as well as selected standards per issue important for individual Enlargement countries.  Stay tuned for individual country’s surveys to be launched in October, second regional Country Reports to be published on the Monitoring Matrix web platform end November. Mid-November, we will also be publishing an analysis of the EC’s Progress Reports 2015-16, in light of the assessment of Enlargement countries support the development of civil society.

WHAT HAPPENED...
 
...IN THE NETWORK
Substance Over Forms: National CSOs Deliver a Clear Message to EU Institutions at the BCSDN Annual Policy Workshop

The event was organized on 7th September in Brussels, on the occasion of the presentation of the 2015 Monitoring Matrix Regional Report and its recommendation to the EC.  The event brought CSO representatives from Western Balkans to present the key challenges for the civil society operating environment in their countries. In response to the Report and the recommendations, Sonja Nita from the Commission has confirmed the worrying trends in Enlargement countries and has called civil society to continue their advocacy in which the Commission has been investing continuously. The aim was to raise a discussion with the Commission, other EU institutions and stakeholders on how the EU Accession Process can promote a stronger and more empowered civil society that enhances political accountability and fosters deeper understanding of accession-related reforms ahead of the publication of the Enlargement Package and Country Progress Reports from 2015-2016. More information is available here.


Partners Discuss Sustainability of the Monitoring and Advocacy of the Enabling Environment in the Region

BCSDN internal Monitoring Matrix Sustainability Workshop took place on the 5th and 6th September  in Brussels. BCSDN members, those directly involved in the monitoring and the advocacy on the EE, were reflecting on why the Monitoring Matrix was initially created, what was the initial goal and has it achieved its goals. The participants of the workshop also analyzed the environment and what has changed since 2012 – both internally within the network and externally in terms of funding, priorities, operating environment and why is the MM – or something like it – needed now and in the future? BCSDN participants have identified several statements of purpose for the period of 2016-2020 and have worked on proposals of improved and more efficient tools for the future monitoring and advocacy which will remain one of the principal activities in the future. More information is available here.


BCSDN Hosts Global Standard for CSO Accountability Steering Group Meeting

The Global Standard for CSO Accountability Steering Group meeting was held the following days (20th -22nd June). On the meeting, the project partners agreed on the final structure of the Standard, the content and the terminology of the content. The Global Standard CSO Accountability Local Stakeholder Meetings took place on 19th  July in the Human Rights House in Belgrade, Serbia.  It was organized by BCSDN and the INGO Accountability Charter in the scope of the Global Standard for CSO Accountability project and was hosted by Civic Initiatives.

DG NEAR Meeting on Improving Funding Modalities for CSOs

DG NEAR has opened an informal consultation with relevant European civil society networks, including BCSDN, through a meeting held on 1stJuly in Brussels (Tanja Hafner Ademi, BCSDN Executive Director attended). The DG and EUDs are exploring ways to diversify and make more coherent it's funding to civil society in the Enlargement and Neighbourhood region and are interested in taking on board feedback from civil society. For the Enlargement region 3 main lessons learned have been shared: current 4 year FPA support is too short and should be extended to 6-8 years; when applying to operating grants, CSOs apply as an action grants, there need be mature formal networks for operating grants to be useful (due to this, the DG will probably not launch new operating grant call) and ownership and sustainability are linked to eligibility criteria-lead organizations need to be local CSOs. The meeting including approx. 15 representatives of networks, focused on discussing action vs operating grants, grant award procedures, outreach to grassroots, grant budgets and cost options and TA support.


Supporting vs. Fostering: The Effectiveness of EU’s Regional Support for CSO Partnerships

BCSDN is proud to present its latest policy brief, authored by Biljana Spasovska, BCSDN’s Policy and Advocacy Officer, assessing how the EU support for regional partnerships of civil society has contributed to fostering democratic reforms and more effective policies in the democracy and rule of law areas (incl. human rights, social dialogue) in current Enlargement countries. The paper finds that EU’s regional support to civil society was tailored to meet the policy challenges identified within the Commission’s Enlargement Strategy. The Commission has been moving away from action-focused, shorter-term interventions towards a more strategic development support, recognizing the need to support independent civil society activities, rather than encourage donor-driven actions. More information is available here.


The Current Development Cooperation Agenda Presented on a Regional Workshop Held in Skopje

On the 21st-22nd June in Skopje, BCSDN organized a regional capacity building event within the scope of the project Western Balkan CSOs in Global Development. 25 participants gathered to discuss and get more knowledge and introduction to the current development cooperation agenda as well as experiences from Romania and Slovenia.  BCSDN members and project partners alongside other CSOs’ representatives from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia discussed: the history of development cooperation, EU and development cooperation and SDGs and the Post-2015 Agenda. The participants were presented to the European Consensus on Development and the added value of the new member states. Each of them had the opportunity to present what would be the added value of their countries in the field of development cooperation and what are the capacities of CSOs available in their countries. More information is available here. 


The Integration Capacity of the EU through an Overview of Published Works of the MAXCAP Project

The project: Maximizing the integration capacity of the European Union: Lessons and prospects for enlargement and beyond (MAXCAP) was a collaborative project of 9 partners consortium academic excellence that seek to explain the outcomes of the EU’s Enlargement process – and to assess conditions and mechanisms for improving those outcomes. MAXCAP investigates how a multiplicity of factors affect Enlargement in combinations and how the EU might maximize its integration capacity for current and future Enlargements and give concrete policy recommendations. BCSDN collected and summarized the main working papers in an overview of all research related to EU Enlargement process in the Western Balkans and Turkey. The publication contains also the policy briefs that aim to formulate specific policy recommendations for practitioners on the EU and/or national level.

...MEMBERS' HIGHLIGHTS

Civic initiatives: Meeting with Representatives of the Commission for drafting the Civil Code


On 29th June, 2016, Representatives of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society of the Republic of Serbia, in cooperation with the Civic Initiatives and Trag Foundation organized a meeting of the Commission for drafting the Civil Code, to present the views, suggestions and proposals of the civil sector in relation to the provisions of the draft Civil Code relating to the status of associations, endowments and foundations. At the outset of the meeting, it was emphasized that the draft Code is a working text and that suggestions and proposals are welcome. The adoption of the Civil Code is expected in the current mandate of the Government.
 

CNVOS: LUPA Festival 2016

On 28 September 2016, the 15th traditional CSOs Festival LUPA, took place at the hearth of the capital Ljubljana, at Preshern Square. Over 120 CSOs presented their work to the public with various activities and live performances. LUPA festival is the traditional presentation of Slovenian CSOs, organized by the Centre for Information Service, Co-operation and Development of NGOs (CNVOS), a horizontal network of CSOs.


CPCD: Third Arena on MONEYVAL

The Third CPCD Civil Society ARENA was organized on 13th July, with the aim to open a broad public debate on the effectiveness, priorities and the effects of the current system of financing programs and projects of the CSOs from the budget. The experiences of CSOs, recent research and the latest findings of the Office of Audit of Institutions in FBIH, raise concerns and warn that the current system of allocating funds to CSOs is not transparent and that there are “holes” that open doubts on illegal activities or misuse of public money, which is getting less and less available for the CSOs. The full video of the third ARENA is available here.


KCSF: Conference On The “Role Of Civil Society In The Public Administration Reform – EU Standards and Practices”

The conference “Role of Civil Society in the Public Administration Reform – EU Standards and Practices”, organized as part of the “People 2 People”
programme by TACSO and KCSF, gathered distinguished experts of the field from the region and the European Union. Throughout the three days of the conference, from 6-8 June, the city of Prishtina welcomed around 80 participants from civil society, TACSO regional offices, EU institutions and national institutions of the six Western Balkans countries and Turkey. The participants had the opportunity to discuss on the involvement and the role of civil society organizations in the public administration reform process in the Enlargement countries.


 MCIC - Government Mirror: Public Participation in the Law-making Processes in Macedonia

Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC) published the third edition of the Government Mirror – report based on monitoring the legal framework and public participation in the process of law making in Macedonia. According to the report findings, the openness of the institutions has decreased since the 2014 report, no changes has been noted on the enabling environment for public participation in the law-drafting processes, and a downward trend in the openness of the processes of draft laws preparation has been noted.



Partners Albania: Monitoring Report on the Philanthropic Activity in Albania, August 2016

For more than one year, Partners Albania is conducting the monitoring of philanthropic activity through the media, including also the social media and information resources from the public and non-public institutions. The monitoring process is conducted on everyday bases and the findings present the supported causes, nature and values of the donation, geographic coverage and also the donor’s nature. They are presented as monthly short summary reports that aim to help on the meaning and identification of this activity. The Report is available for download here.

...IN THE REGION

Survey of Trends Affecting Civic Space 2015-16: Europe and Eurasia the 2nd Region Only to South and Central Asia (18) in Leading Restrictions on Civic Space


The International Center for Non-Profit-Law (ICNL) issued the Survey of Trends Affecting Civic Space: 2015-16 in its quarterly review of NGO law trends around the world – Global Trends in NGO Law. The paper elaborates on several multilateral initiatives at regional and international levels that have had an impact on Еnabling Еnvironment for civil society and the positive trends showcasing the decisive influence of civil society when given the space to act. Amid its extraordinarily influential and essential role in responding to challenges, nevertheless, states recognizing civil societies’ unleashed potential resort to a variety of tools to erode its influence. In fact, ICNL data reveal that since the beginning of 2015, states have adopted 64 restrictive laws, regulations, and other initiatives. Read more on the trends affecting civil society in 2015 – 2016 here.
USAID CSO Sustainability Index 2015 Report: Thriving or Just Surviving?

The 19th edition of the USAID CSO Sustainability Index
Report finds that the overall CSO sustainability in the Southern Tier (South East Europe) countries remained largely stagnant in 2015, with only one country –Macedonia- recording a change in overall sustainability as a result of the difficult political environment that restricts civic space. While not leading to a change in overall sustainability, Serbia, Croatia, and Kosovo each reported deterioration in at least two dimensions of sustainability. After steady improvements since 2011, the Serbia report notes decreases in the legal environment, advocacy, service provision, and public image. In Croatia, the score for legal environment fell, largely due to the introduction of significant new financial management requirements, and organizational capacity deteriorated slightly as inherent weaknesses in the sector become more apparent. In Kosovo, CSOs began to be inspected for compliance with a law aimed at preventing money laundering and terrorism, negatively affecting the legal environment, while the government’s focus on broader political issues and the opposition’s boycott of the parliament caused widespread process delays, thereby limiting advocacy. Both Albania and Bulgaria showed improvements in at least two dimensions of sustainability, although these also did not result in a change in overall sustainability. Read the full report here.
Consultation on the UN NPI Handbook for Collecting Basic Civil Society Data2016 Edition of the Civil Society Forum Held in Paris 

The UN Statistical Division has made available the draft Handbook on Non-Profit Institutions (NPI) in the System of National Accounts (SNA) for consultation. The Handbook is currently being updated to include major developments in two areas: 1) collecting data related to the non-profit sector and 2) to  respond to the need of having better data to measure the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals in terms of incl. contribution by non-profit sector as well as to enable measuring of results and impact. The present draft Handbook paves the wave for accurate measuring and publishing of basic data on the s. c. the economic value of the nonprofit/civil society sector, incl. employment, volunteering, bringing in social economy actors as well as ways impact of their work. Read more here.
CoE Working on New Guidelines For Meaningful Participation in Decision-Making 

The Council of Europe, through the European Committee on Democracy and Governance (CDDG) and Conference of INGOs, is preparing guidelines to help ensure meaningful civil participation in political decision-making in its member states. The Guidelines are being based on the 2009 Code of Good Practice for Civic Participation in the Decision-Making Process  with the aim to ensure its full implementation in all CoE Member States. Before finalizing the draft Guidelines, a wide public consultation on the draft text was organized, seeking to obtain input from public bodies and authorities as well as civil society.  After consultations and their consideration, the draft Guidelines will be transmitted to the Committee of Ministers for adoption. The find out about the Guidelines and read its draft see here.

2016 Edition of the Civil Society Forum Held in Paris 

The Forum is organized on the occasion of the 3rd intergovernmental summit of Western Balkans and EU countries (s.c. Berlin Process) in Paris on 3rd -4th July. It follows the Civil Society Forum held in Vienna in August 2015, and in Novi Sad and Belgrade in May 2016, where four main policy areas (migration, climate change and green growth, bilateral disputes and youth cooperation) have been identified as priorities for the Western Balkans region. While the Civil Society Forum largely in parallel and on the margins of the official proceedings, civil society representatives presented Conclusions and Recommendations. More information is available here.


Regional Expert Conference on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly in the Western Balkans

European Center for Non-for-Profit Law hosted an expert conference on freedom of peaceful assembly in the Western Balkans “Right to Free Assembly: Making Democracy Work” On June 21st, 2016, in Skopje, Macedonia. Under the Civic Space Initiative funded by SIDA, the conference aimed at presenting the pilot research projects of ECNL and its local partners on monitoring of the legal framework and practical implementation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in five Western Balkan countries (Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia), share knowledge and practices, as well as explore how different actors can further raise awareness and knowledge about this fundamental right. Upon the lively and in-depth discussions that developed during the conference, the participants come to a joint conclusion that legislative frameworks need to be adjusted to fully meet international standards, and more importantly, their practical implementation needs to be strengthened. The event gathered 30 representatives of national and regional civil society organizations, intergovernmental organizations and relevant state institutions from the countries in the region and beyond, including BCSDN’s members Klotilda Tavani (PA), Edona Krasniqi (KCSF), Simona Trajkovska (MCIC), as well as Tanja Hafner Ademi (BCSDN), Sanja Bogatinovska (BCSDN). The full country reports are available here.
Montenegro and Croatia Launched Development of a New Strategy on Enabling Environment for CSDev, 2017-2020/21

The process of drafting a new National Strategy in Croatia started with the launch of 4 public hearings on the priorities of the National Strategy during April 2016. Public hearings were organized in order to obtain feedback from civil society organizations on the obstacles and challenges of development of civil society in the new 4-year period. Under the coordination of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, an operational multi-stakeholder body to lead the development of the new Strategy was launched and held its first meeting on 10th October. In parallel with the process of drafting a new Strategy, evaluation of the implementation of the current Strategy (2012-2016) was launched. To read more go here or follow the Strategy FB page. In Montenegro, the process of development of the new Strategy is supported by an EU Technical Assistance project, which for this needs developed an analytical basis of the current Strategy and future needs as reported by different stakeholders in the consultation process. To read more about the process of development and follow it see here
Councils for Cooperation Established and Boycotted

Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro have marked new developments with regards to Councils for the cooperation of their respective governments with civil society. After being formally established in 2015, the Albanian National Council for Civil Society (NCCS) was elected 13th June 2016. The publication of full member’s list and first meeting minutes are yet to be published. Macedonia has marked a major backsliding with the technical Government hastily adopting the Decision on the Establishment of the Council for Cooperation between the Government and Civil Society on May 17th, 2016, only two working days after presenting it to CSOs and without any possibility for additional consultations. Notwithstanding a joint reaction of more than 75 CSOs who have been the leading advocates for the establishment of the Council, has been sent to the Government Secretariat, the Government proceeded with the selection of candidates, resulting in an active boycott and a Statement of 89 CSOs. While a list of selected candidates, most of them unknown to civil society or general public, and whose profile and respective CSO portfolio does not correspond to the area they represent has been published and only a total of 192 CSOs submitted their votes (128 valid), the formal decision and commencement of the Council is still pending. In Montenegro, the CSO representatives in the Council have staged a boycott at its September session as according to their view, the President has modified and disregarded the opinion of the Council’s majority in relation to the Report on the procedure of issuing the Decision on the allocation of revenue from games of chance for 2016.
IN THIS EDITION:

ANNOUNCEMENT BOARD

WHAT HAPPENED...

    ...IN THE NETWORK
 ...MEMBERS' HIGHLIGHTS     ...IN THE REGION
PUBLICATIONS
BCSDN short documentary shows you what brought together 15 civil society organizations from 10 countries in Southeast Europe. With the mission to empower the civil society and influence European and national policies towards more enabling environment for civil society development our members and Executive office have been working for more 15 years together to contribute to the democratic processes in our countries.
Monitoring Matrix on Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development: Regional Report 2015
Throughout the year 2015, civil society organizations (‘CSOs’) in the Western Balkans and Turkey operated in a relatively stable and unchanged environment compared to 2014 and 2013. The political calamities, coupled with the rise of citizen unrest and the refugee crisis in the Enlargement countries left little room for improvements of the environment for civil society development. 
Regional Report for 2015: West Balkans and Turkey
Executive Summary of 2015 Report on Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development
 
Monitoring Matrix Country Stats for 2015 
Statistics on number of CSO, public financing, dialoguing mechanism and more.
 
Partners Albania: Monitoring Matrix Report - Albania 2015
CPCD: Monitoring Matrix Report - Bosnia & Herzegovina 2015
KCSF: Monitoring Matrix Report - Kosovo 2015
MCIC: Monitoring Matrix Report - Macedonia 2015
CRNVO: Monitoring Matrix Report - Montenegro 2015
Civic Initiatives: Monitoring Matrix Report - Serbia 2015
TUSEV: Monitoring Matrix Report - Turkey 2015
Balkan Civil Society Acquis
Strengthening the Advocacy and Monitoring Potential and Capacities of CSOs (2012-2016) Project Results & Achievements


 
The 2015 CSO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia
CSO sectors in the twenty-four countries covered in the CSO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia continue to be highly diverse in 2015, spanning the full spectrum of sustainability. The growth of truly democratic institutions and civic space has been stunted in many countries, and has eroded in others.
This Newsletter is publication of the Balkan Civil Society Development Network.
It is published on a periodic basis in English. For  more  information on the network visit: 
http://www.balkancsd.net or contact ExecutiveOffice@balkancsd.net.

Executive Office
Mitropolit Teodosij Gologanov 39/II-2
1000 Skopje, Macedonia
Tel: +389 (0)2 614 42 11

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