Foreword by the Executive Director
Dear partners and colleagues,
Living in these challenging and turbulent times for our societies and the region, every time we are preparing our Newsletter, I cannot cease to be amazed by the positive contribution that civil society is making and the extent our network and our member organizations are contributing to this process by making governments and institutions open, effective, transparent and responsible to their citizens. In this spring edition, you will find out about exciting new initiatives, projects and internal changes helping transform and enable our network to further grow. From conducting another round of yearly monitoring of the enabling environment for operation of CSOs in Enlargement countries, to participation in co-creation of referent global CSO accountability standard, and facilitating learning and exchange on global and EU development policies for CSOs in Enlargement countries. Finally, with our annual networking gathering, the network has embarked on continuing its path of leading advocate for civil society enabling environment through approving its Strategy 2017-2020. Our Newsletter brings you further news about our member’s own efforts and work as well as plans for upcoming activities.
Enjoy your read,
Tanja Hafner Ademi
- Changes in BCSDN EO Staff
From June 2016, our Information and Communication Officer Anja Bosilkova-Antovska and Policy and Advocacy Officer Biljana Spasovska have started their maternity leave. Vladimir Delov has joined the team as maternity coverage for the position of Information and Communication Officer. He is available for contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Changes in BCSDN Board Structure
With the stepping down of Venera Hajrullahu (KCSF) as Chair and Board member, during the Board meeting on 18th April, the Board elected Ana Novakovic (CRNVO) as acting Chair and Dubravka Velat (Civic Initiatives) as acting Vice-chair covering for the maternity leave of Tina Divjak (CNVOS) till the next Board elections in 2017, when the Board mandate is ending. For the period, the Board will focus on refining the work on monitoring the enabling environment (under the Monitoring Matrix methodology), develop a fundraising and communication strategy alongside its Strategic Outlook 2017-2020, and finalizing the Code of Conduct.
- Changes in BCSDN Membership
The 8th Annual Council Meeting on 19th April concluded the exit of two members from the network – ACSF (Albania) and VESTA (BiH) – and welcomed a new member from Romania - Civil Society Development Foundation (FDSC). FDSC is currently the biggest local foundation in Romania delivering grants and capacity-building support to CSOs, as well as advocating on general issues with regards to CSDev. We thank ACSF and VESTA for their contribution to the network, and we welcome FDSC, hoping to strengthen our network's presence and exchange with civil society in Romania.
BCSDN’s annual policy workshop for 2016 will take place on the 7th September in Brussels. At the workshop, the regional findings of the monitoring of the enabling environment for civil society development in 7 WBT countries will be presented and recommendations for improving the enabling environment will be discussed. More information to follow.
- Regional Event on Development Cooperation - 21-22 June, Skopje
BCSDN will organize a regional workshop on the current global development agenda in the scope of the project Western Balkan CSOs for Global Development. During this two-day workshop 20-25 participants from WB CSOs will receive a general introduction to the European development cooperation landscape and current debates in global development such as the principles and implementation of CSO development effectiveness, the European Development Consensus and the Post-2015 agenda.
- CSO Accountability Partnership Meeting – 19-22 July, Belgrade
BCSDN will organize the next partnership meeting in Belgrade, 20-22 July that will serve to finalize the “zero draft” of the Standard before publicizing it for consultation for wider public. On the 19th, BCSDN will be partnering with the INGO Accountability Charter to present the project and the Standard to Serbian organizations and the Charter members present in Serbia.
...IN THE NETWORK
CIVICUS Research Partners Workshop: Launching the Civic Space Monitor
25-27 May 2016, Johannesburg:
CIVICUS organized a Research Partners Workshop on Civic Space Monitor, gathering representatives of 21 regional civil society networks working on enabling environment for civil society development issues, including Sanja Bogatinovska, BCSDN’s Junior Policy and Advocacy Officer on Civil Society Development. The workshop aimed at opening a discussion that will develop into a global community of practice around civic space research, while focusing the workshop on how the Civic Space Monitor
(CSM) functions in practice. CIVICUS has developed a globally deployed methodology that is responsive enough to capture complex social change processes, focusing on the three fundamental freedoms of civic space – freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. CSM, which is planned to be put in service during September 2016.
25-29 April, Bogota:
Monitoring Matrix Country Reports 2015 Finalized and Presented
In the past couple of months, BCSDN and the members have been actively working on finalizing the 2015 Monitoring Matrix country reports. According to Partners Albania, the legal framework governing establishment and functioning of CSOs in Albania
is regulated in most of its aspects, however, the centralization of (re-)registration process and the taxation for CSOs remains problematic, while public funding remains insufficient for the CSOs’ institutional development and financial sustainability. The Council on Civil Society and the Road Map for CS Enabling Environment are two positive developments with which the state has institutionalized the cooperation with the sector. Yet, problematic remains the effective participation of CSOs in law and policy-making processes. With regards to the situation in Macedonia
, MCIC pointed out that, during 2015, state authorities exercised indirect pressure on CSOs through inspections and other methods, but also that there have been several deviations from the law regarding limitations to the place for holding assemblies. State funding does not correspond to CSOs’ needs, and the gap between the existing legislation and its implementation regarding Government–CSO cooperation has widened due to the enormous amount of laws being adopted in shortened procedure without consultations. Civic Initiatives also presented their new report for Serbia
, stressing that it is key to continue developing the so-far established cooperation between civil society and government institutions, and that the areas that need urgent interventions are: adopting a Strategy and establishing a Council for cooperation, changes in the framework for volunteering, new tax incentives for philanthropy, and capacity-building of CSOs for fundraising. The rest of the partners are expected to publish and present their reports in the coming weeks (KCSF 06.06, CPCD 24.06, others to be later announced), and will be made available at the Monitoring Matrix
About 900 civil society leaders and activists from more than 109 countries were in Bogota for the International Civil Society Week 2016 to discuss active citizenry and how to overcome threats faced by civil society groups. The meeting was a space for them to give their contribution to ensure the respect of rights of association, participation, expression and access to information, and to remind international actors of the role that civil society has as a political and social actor, as well as responsible actor in the development sector. BCSDN representative Ilina Nesik took active participation throughout ICSW, more specifically in the two workshops organized by the Global Standard for CSO Accountability – an initiative that the network has recently joined, as well as at the presentation of the Civic Space Monitor were BCSDN is to become a regional node.
BCSDN Joins a Global Initiative to Develop a Reference Standard of CSO Accountability
In April 2016, BCSDN officially became the 9th network worldwide to join the initiative of developing a Global Standard for CSO Accountability, an initiative aiming to strengthen the effectiveness of CSOs worldwide by devising a collective accountability standard to be used as a point of orientation for CSO accountability globally. The three goals of the project are: to improve CSO accountability codes and practice; reduce transaction costs (convergence between multiple existing codes) and contribute to a more enabling environment for CSOs. It builds on the INGO Accountability Charter – a commitment of international NGOs to a high standard of transparency, accountability and effectiveness in their work.
Assessment of DG Enlargement Performance as part of the 2016 Aid Transparency Index
Once again, BCSDN has taken part in the 2016 ATI evaluations as an independent reviewer by assessing DG Enlargement performance. The 2016 analysis from Publish What You Fund indicates that 25% of global aid now meets transparency standards. Despite the progress over the last five years, the analysis of 46 aid donors found that most have failed to uphold this commitment. DG NEAR is one of the biggest improvers since 2013, increasing its score by 26%. It is the top ranking EC Directorate-General in the 2016 Index. DG NEAR should still improve its coverage and publish all available project-related documents to the IATI Registry, and very importantly, should require implementation of the IATI Standard by all co-financing activities in the areas covered by its mandate.
8th Annual Council Meeting Setting BCSDN’s Strategic Outlook for 2017-2020
19 April, Skopje: BCSDN’s 8th Annual Council Meeting, hosted by MCIC, gathered representatives of 12 member organizations to discuss the activities of the network in the past year and to discuss the activities planned for the upcoming period. The main aim of the ACM was to discuss and adopt the BCSDN Strategy for 2017-2020.
Western Balkan CSOs for Global Development: New Regional Project Kicked Off
4-5 February, Belgrade: The two-day Western Balkan CSOs Global Development Partner and Strategy Meeting brought together CSO representatives of each partner country. Local coordinators and representatives of all project partner organisations, including BCSDN and some of its members, met in order to refine the strategy for implementation of the project, as well as to exchange information and enhance knowledge on relevant topics related to development cooperation and CSO platform building. The meeting also allowed participants to get acquainted more closely to the Sustainable Development Goals and the possibility for CSOs across the globe to get involved in the Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Civic Initiatives: Necessary Strengthening of the Impact of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society
In regard to the appointment of a new Director of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society in Serbia on 17th February 2016, almost a year since the resignation of Ivana Ćirković, CI have expressed their support to the Government for this decision, as well as their expectations from the new director Žarko Stepanović. Civic Iinitiatives
have been advocating for adoption of the first National Strategy and Action Plan to create an enabling environment for development of civil society in Serbia for the period 2015-2019, urging the new director to condemn the negative attitude towards the civil sector led in part of the media in the recent months.
CNVOS: National Conference on the Strategy for Development of CSOs and Volunteering 2016-2020
11 April, Ljubljana: CNVOS and the Ministry of Public Administration held a national conference for CSOs entitled Final Steps towards the Strategy for development of CSOs and Volunteering. At the conference, the Ministry representatives presented the draft strategy announced in the beginning of April. In addition to around 100 representatives of civil society, the conference was attended by the Prime Minister Dr. Miro Cerar and the Minister of Public Administration Boris Koprivnikar. Goran Forbici, the Director of CNVOS, applauded the initiative of the Ministry, stressing that it is the first time that such an initiative comes from the Government, with active involvement of many government representatives, and expressed his hope that a quality document will be produced and effective measures will be adopted so that in 2020 Slovenia will have a better developed civil society sector, and better organized and quality volunteering.
CPCD: The Council of Ministers of BIH to Urgently Create Functional Mechanisms for Dialogue with the Citizens
2 February, Sarajevo: At the national conference “Bell of change”, CPCD called on the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina to urgently establish functional mechanisms for dialogue with the citizens, stressing the importance of mobilization of all capacities in BiH for speeding up the EU accession process by increasing the participation of the civil society and interested public. The conference was held in the Parliamentary Assembly, with the aim for CSOs to put organized pressure on the Council of Ministers to take the necessary actions and measures that will create conditions for greater participation of citizens and CSOs in the current reform processes of BiH on the way towards the EU.
CRNVO: New System of Financing Montenegrin CSOs form the State Budget Needed
CRNVO has stressed the urgent necessity to create a new system of financing CSO projects from the state budget, as envisaged with the changes of the Law on CSOs. CRNVO analysed the process of distribution of funds from games of chance and expressed concerns about how are the CSO projects being evaluated, the delay in publication of the competitions’ calls, as well as the distribution of funds to a very large number of organizations in very small amounts. CRNVO argues that the Law on games of chance has been continuously violated, in a way that CSO projects are being distributed a smaller amount than the one provided by the Law.
IDM Launches Public Debate on Political Engagement
During April, IDM and NDI Albania organized roundtable discussions on ways to improving political and civic engagement in Albania with representatives of CSOs, political parties, international partners and media in Tirana, Durres and Shkoder. The participants were presented with the findings of the study conducted in early 2016, through a poll and focus groups across Albania, examining citizens’ engagement in democratic processes as an indicator of the health of a society.
KCSF: Training CSOs on Project Cycle Management
25-27 February, Mitrovica: At the request of five CSOs operating in Mitrovica, KCSF Center organized training courses for strategic planning and fundraising for these 5 CSOs and 10 additional ones selected at an open call. With the finalization of the first three-day training, the participants have gained knowledge in regard to efficient planning, organizing and managing their organizations. The second course comprised training on project cycle management, delivered over two days during March (4-5).
19 April, Skopje: MCIC organized a public thematic debate entitled “Setting the Records Straight: Availability of Public Funding for Civil Society in the Western Balkans and Turkey (WBT) Region”, gathering circa 30 representatives of CSOs as well as state institutions. MCIC presented a policy document on public financing of CSOs in Macedonia, while Tanja Hafner Ademi (BCSDN) provided a regional overview of the state at play in WBT, and Stefania Andersen (FDSC) discussed best practices of state funding of CSOs in Romania.
20 April, Tirana: Partners Albania organized the conference “Challenges and Opportunities for Employment of Marginalized Groups by Social Enterprises”, bringing together representatives from line ministries, academic institutions, development agencies and donors, social enterprises, CSOs, businesses, and other stakeholders that contribute to the development of social enterprises in Albania. Findings of a study in Albania and Macedonia were also presented, providing a general overview of social enterprises, features of their development, dimension, and opportunities for employment and integration of marginalized groups.
In an interview for CIVICUS, Liana Varon, the Deputy Secretary General of TUSEV, spoke about the situation concerning freedom of expression and the environment for CSOs. She gave an overview of the environment for civil society in 2015, stressing that over the past year there have not been any significant steps taken towards creating a more enabling environment for civil society in Turkey and that, in fact, the civic space has been shrinking more significantly since the end of Gezi Movement protests of 2013.
...IN THE REGION
12-13th May, Novi Sad/Belgrade:
The Civil Society Forum 2016 took place in Serbia under the umbrella of the “Civil Society Forum of the Western Balkans Summit Series” and building on the Civil Society Forum held on the margins of the Vienna Summit of the Berlin Process in August 2015. With the aim of the Forum to contribute to a greater role, visibility and impact of the civil society in the Berlin process and the broader EU integration process of the Western Balkan countries, over 100 CSO representatives gathered to discuss and develop common positions towards political leaders and their governments, including BCSDN’s Executive Director Tanja Hafner Ademi.
27-28 April, Skopje:
The TACSO Regional Conference “Monitoring of the EU Guidelines for the Support to Civil Society in the Enlargement Countries, 2014-2020 – Year 2” gathered more than 80 participants, among which representatives of EC Brussels, TACSO, SIPU International, media, as well as representatives of state institutions and CSOs from the region, including representatives of BCSDN members. The aim was to collect input for the 2016 Progress Reports on the part of civil society state of affairs in the Western Balkans and Turkey. TACSO introduced the monitoring system vis-à-vis EU CS Guidelines developed under TACSO lead and executed by IPSOS Strategic Marketing, and an overview of the current state of affairs in the enlargement countries against EU Guidelines was presented. Finally, national inputs for the Progress Reports were briefly presented highlighting the key positive changes and the key shortcomings and priority actions that need to be taken until the next reporting period.
17-18 March, Brussels:
The 2016 edition of the CSO Forum brought together CSOs from both the international development and human rights field from all over the world. The aim was to further the implementation of the EU policy shift towards supporting the enabling environment, participation and capacity of civil society as an actor of governance, and to promote the strong EU commitment to protect human rights, rule of law and democracy worldwide. Different topics of CSO’s enabling environment were discussed and BCSDN representative Ilina Nesik participated on several of them.
25-26 February, Belgrade:
Around 150 participants from civil society, European and national institutions from the Western Balkans and Turkey were brought together for the conference “Civil Society & Beyond: A Joint Dialogue on the European Path”, organized by the European Movement International and European Movement in Serbia, in partnership with TACSO and SEIO. The two-day plenary sessions and workshops focused on various questions concerning the EU integration process and the involvement of civil society in the programming of EU assistance. From BCSDN participated our Policy and Advocacy Officer, Ms. Biljana Spasovska.
In April, the first of the EU Technical Assistance projects supporting Government capacities and development to develop conditions for CSOs activities started its operation in Kosovo, and a regional peer-to-peer webportal Gov2Gov
for civil society has been launched under the auspice of the Serbia Office for Cooperation with Civil Society. However worrying trends take place in Croatia since the enactment of new Government in January 2016, where the Civil Society Council President and CSO representatives resign in protest of Government decision to cut up to 50% of state funding for the National Civil Society Foundation and other civil society projects. Moreover, the existence of the Foundation, which is a unique model of dialogue and support via an independent institution, is now in question, undermining the decade-long model of trust and cooperation built between civil society and public institutions in Croatia. In midst of a political crisis, the Macedonian Government has adopted a Decision on establishing a Council for Cooperation with Civil Society, but with lacking legitimacy, proper consultation, lacking mechanisms of building trust by enacting majority of Government representatives to govern the Council. To follow more trends on the enabling environment visit BCSDN website
or our Monitoring Matrix website
dedicated to monitoring trends in enabling environment in Enlargement countries.