Foreword by the Executive Director
Dear colleagues and partners,
We spent this summer and early autumn in preparation of the 3rd annual cycle on monitoring the enabling environment by
designing a new system to make the tracking of progress easier for both our partners and the public and we organized a training to strengthen learning and exchange on enabling environment among monitoring partners. Our network was active on the ground and participated with its expertise and input to some of the key regional and national political events taking place, including consultation with the EU HR Mogherini, participation to Western Balkans Civil Society Forum and monitoring of conditions in which CSO and citizens’ activities work in helping the migrants and refuges. Furthermore, you can read about BCSDN sharing of experience with other regional civil society networks.
Still, the 2nd half of the year promises to be even more exciting. We will be publishing our new website as of 1st November, our annual review of civil society in the EP Progress Reports 2015-2016 and 1st study on the economic value of CSOs in Enlargement countries. Finally, this Newsletter brings you further relevant developments, events, publications on the issues of civil society development from our members as well as other European and global stakeholders. We hope you will find it an interesting and useful read.
With best wishes,
Tanja Hafner Ademi
- Changes in BCSDN EO Staff
Since September 2015, Milka Ivanovska Hadjievska
, Junior Policy and Advocacy Officer on Civil Society Development and OSI TTF Fellow has ended her work in our Office and has commenced her phD studies at University of Exeter. Sanja Bogatinovska
will resume in the same position as an OSI TTF Fellow as of November 2015, and will work on Monitoring Matrix-related issues. We wish both of them success in their upcoming endeavors.
- New BCSDN Website Available from 1st of November
With the support of Cenzura Plus, and as part of the Europe for Citizens project, BCSDN has redesigned the organizational website www.balkancsd.net
with a more refreshed and modern look, and easier and more interactive access to the information on the network, its activities - both EO and members’ activities, and relevant civil society news from the region.
- TSI Mid-term Seminar - 13th October 2015, Brussels
Third Sector Impact (TSI), an FP7 research project is convening a mid-term seminar to discuss so far achievements and challenges of the project so far with other stakeholders and civil society representatives, including BCSDN. The project aims to understand the scope and scale of the third sector in Europe, its current and potential impact, and the barriers hindering the third sector to fully contribute to the continent's welfare.
- The EU Progress Reports with New Methodology to Be Published on 21st October
The first Enlargement package under the Juncker's Commission will be published on 21st October, 2015. The Enlargement strategy and the Progress Reports, whose publication was postponed due to the scheduled European Council focus on migration the week before, will have some novelties including a mid-term strategy for the first time. BCSDN has been analyzing the Package from the perspective of civil society development findings and recommendations to Governments in these documents since 2009. It is to be seen how the new methodology will be reflected on assessments on state of civil society as last year’s reports featured for the first time civil society as separate section within the Political criteria of the Progress Reports for each country. This year we hope to see EC has further advanced in the way it monitors civil society development and uses its own monitoring tool – The Guidelines for EU support to civil society development in enlargement countries, 2014-2020. Stay tuned for this year's BCSDN analysis which will be set in the framework of the Monitoring Matrix on Enabling Environment for CSDev.
- Gov2Gov/CSO Online Platform Launch - end of November 2015, Belgrade
The Serbian Government Office for Cooperation with Civil Society has announced the launch of an online platform aimed at sharing and exchanging information relevant for the enabling environment for civil society in Enlargement countries between Government mechanisms as well as with civil society. While the platform
development is currently in its final stage, it is expected to be promoted and available by end of November, 2015.
- BCSDN Board Meeting and Strategic Workshop - 30 November - 1 December 2015, Mavrovo
The traditional end-year meeting of the Board will include a mini-strategic workshop in which Board members will discuss challenges and strategic priorities for the network beyond 2017. The workshop will be the basis to set in motion larger discussion with all members leading to approval of BCSDN post-2017 strategy at the 2016 Annual Council Meeting.
- 17th EU NGO Human Rights Forum - 3-4 |December 2015, Brussels
The Forum is jointly organised by the EEAS and the EC in conjunction with the Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN). Over 200 people, most of them civil society representatives from across the globe, are invited to participate, alongside high level decision makers from the European Institutions and member states, international and regional experts, academics and practitioners. The theme of this year's Forum will be “Protecting and Promoting Civil Society Space".
...IN THE NETWORK
Advocating for Civil Society's Involvement in Political Processes in the Enlargement Countries
During July, BCSDN Executive Office and its members took part in several high-profile meetings to discuss the importance of civil society’s involvement in the political processes in Enlargement countries. In Macedonia, the BCSDN Office helped in organizing and participated in the EESC meeting with civil society representatives
on 28th July, including BCSDN’s Exec. Director Tanja Hafner Ademi, to discuss the issues that are key for the country’s progress on its path towards EU accession, including the role of civil society in this process. On 21st July, BCSDN Executive Director participated to the meeting with the EP Delegation to the Joint Parliamentary Committee
with local CSOs who shared their views on the political crisis in Macedonia and civil society’s role in the monitoring and implementation of the agreement reached to overcome it. EU integration issues and reforms were also discussed in Serbia on 9th July, when the German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Serbian civil society
representatives, including Civic Initiatives’ Director Maja Stojanovic. On 23rd July, in Bulgaria, HP Mogherini met with regional CSOs and think-tanks
, incl. Tanja Hafner Ademi and Venera Hajrullahu, KCSF Exec. Diorector and BCSDN Board Chair, to discuss EU’s Neighborhood and Enlargement policy, in the framework of EU’s Global Foreign Policy Strategy Review.
Testing a New Coding and Categorization System in the Monitoring of the Enabling Environment for CSDev
On 15th July, BCSDN Working Group met in Skopje
to discuss the results and methodological challenges from the implementation of the proposal on coding and categorization of the Country Reports from 2013 and 2014. The September training
for BCSDN member organizations’ representatives served as an opportunity to discuss with project staff the test version of the new Monitoring Matrix back-end platform, in which the newly proposed system is integrated, in order to streamline the process of writing and reviewing the MM Country Reports. The proposed system aims to address the need for standardization of quality of the country reports and to enable compressed and effective visual communication of findings and systematic presentation of changes in the enabling environment for CSDev across countries and years. The new system will be tested during the 2015 MM exercise.
BCSDN Lends its Expertise in Development of Strategy for the Black Sea Region Civil Society
On 9th September, 2015, Tanja Hafner Ademi and Milka Ivanova Hadjievska presented the report on the Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development in the Black Sea Region which was commissioned by the Black Sea NGO Forum to support its development of a join civil society strategy for action in the region. The report was discussed with EU stakeholders including EC, EEAS, EP, Romanian representations, civil society networks as a basis for the preparation of the 8th annual Black Sea NGO Forum. The BCSDN team based its work on its Monitoring Matrix and the CPDE framework and analysed the basic freedoms, tax, state support, volunteering policies, cooperation with public institutions, donor and CSO relationships in 8 countries of the Black Sea Region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine). Read more.
Brief on Challenges Faced by CSOs and Citizens Helping Refugees in Macedonia and Serbia
In the focus of monitoring the enabling environment in all Enlargement countries via the Monitoring Matrix tool, BCSDN has been in communication with organizations and informal groups in Macedonia and Serbia who are helping in the transiting refugees and migrants crisis mainly through humanitarian assistance. Based on the information gathered, the Executive Office has prepared a brief on the key challenges these organizations and informal groups face when working with refugees and migrants and has shared it with key international and national institutions to help in facilitate better access of local CSOs and citizens in assisting refugees and migrant crossing the Balkan region. Thanks to the brief, the EC services’ mission working on programming the special humanitarian assistance to Macedonia and Serbia by end of 2015, has been made aware of the needs and challenges of local CSOs and citizens’ groups.
Strengthening and Sharing Experience on Monitoring the Enabling Environment in Enlargement Countries
On 22nd and 23rd September, BCSDN organized a training for 15 representatives of its member organizations and the Executive Office staff on international and European non-profit law and regulatory best practices to deepen the knowledge of its staff working on monitoring the enabling environment for civil society in their countries. Strengthening the knowledge and hands-on experience on these subjects is crucial to develop the in-country staff capacity to be able to promote, raise-awareness and train relevant stakeholders (representatives of Government, CSO, media, business etc.) in their country. Led by Tina Divjak from CNVOS, the training provided opportunity to discuss open issues and reach a common understanding on all aspects of the operating space in which civil society works.
The Balkan Civil Society Acquis project in the month of September has wrapped up the 9th month of implementation. The Balkan Public Policy Fund
grantees were selected and started with the implementation of the projects related to the enabling environment of civil society development. In Albania
, a meeting was organized with the General Directorate of Social Policies at the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth to discuss on the continuation of the initiative on Social Procurement in Albania, started in 2014, with the preparation of the Policy paper on Social Procurement. In Macedonia
, MCIC presented the progress on the Implementation of the Strategy for Cooperation between the Government and Civil Society
(2012-2017) in Macedonia for the period June 2012 to December 2014. The state officials had the opportunity to explain the constraints they face when they implement the Strategy (lack of budget, lack of clearly explained measures and responsible persons), and the CSOs had the opportunity to find their active role in supporting the institutions to implement the measures. In Turkey
, TUSEV has published a policy brief
to reflect on the situation of the registration of foreign CSOs in Turkey and reviews the state of play of the legal and policy frameworks regulating this process in the Western Balkans. Also a social media campaign under the brand name of “TUSEV Atolye”
(workshop) was started with the aim of sharing data and information regarding CS enabling environment.
Partners Albania Has New Image and Name
After 15 years of activity in Albania, building institutional and individual capacities in the country through training and research, and facilitation of processes in and among civil society, state institutions and the business sector, Partners Albania comes with a new image and name that best reflects its mission and work. This change is part of the rebranding strategy of Partners for Democratic Change International Network, to which Partners Albania is a member since its establishment in 2001. Read more.
MCIC: Economic Activities - Opportunity for Ensuring CSO's Sustainability
On 7th July at the EU Info Center in Skopje, Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC), held a presentation on “Civil society organizations and economic activities - possibility for sustainability?”. Intended primarily for CSO management and accountants, the event served to inform CSOs that are engaged in, or are planning to start with, economic activities about the benefits, disadvantages and limitations of such engagement, as well as the legal framework in which CSOs' economic activities are to be implemented. Read more.
IDM Official Opening of the School on Security Policy
For the second successive year IDM is implementing the Project Citizen against Corruption with high school students, with the intention to increase awareness in the fight against all forms of corruption. The Minister for Local Government Bledi Çuçi stressed that corruption cannot be fought by the government alone, and civic education has a very important place in the anti-corruption strategy. Introduction of an anti-corruption module in the civic education curriculum was proposed in order to educate citizens to fight against this phenomenon. Read more.
CRNVO Conference on the Experience of Montenegrin CSOs in The EU Integration Process
On 27th July in Podgorica, CRNVO, with the support of Cenzura Plus under the Europe for Citizens project, organized the conference "The experience of NGOs in the process of European Integration: Achievements and Challenges". The main message of the conference was that CSOs must not be the decor of the European integration of Montenegro, and only when the Government acknowledges the CSOs’ essential work in the process one can talk about its success. Speakers on the conference concluded that the EU integration process needs a much higher level of inclusiveness and the role and position of civil society representatives in the working groups has to be clarified, allowing them an equal position and non-selective access to information. Read more.
CPCD Building Capacities of CSOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina
During the summer period, in its Resource Center, CPCD organized several trainings for capacity building of CSOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 15 participants participated in a training on CSO sustainability which aimed to raise importance on the issue and empower CSOs to develop strategic plans for sustainability of their operations. Furthermore, representatives of civil society, government and educational institutions were provided with trainings on writing quality project proposals, effective management, goal setting and time management.
On 24th September, in Ljubljana, for the 14th consecutive year, CNVOS organized the LUPA Festival for Slovenian CSOs. In a traditional ceremony more than 130 CSOs presented the variety and diversity of Slovenian civil society to a wide audience. Throughout the day, all interested citizens could join and engage in the activities organized by CSOs both on stage and at the numerous stands around the main square. The festival aims to present the richness of civil society in Slovenia and its importance for dealing with various issues essential for citizens. Read more
Civic Initiatives have started implementing a project for enabling marginalized young women from in Sandzak and South of Serbia to get education in IT. Under the Youth Build IT project, 30 young women are going through comprehensive education program in IT and Web Design. In addition, they will attend training for personal skills development related to job seeking, start up business and capacity building. Advanced lessons will enable them to complete their studies and allow them to independently provide for themselves and their families, improve their quality of life and set an example that women can be leaders in communities. Read more
...IN THE REGION
BCSDN has been involved in a regional meeting with organizations from South East Europe that deal with drug policy and harm reduction, by sharing experiences and knowledge on registration of a network in the region, foundation, membership procedures, joint advocacy examples etc. The meeting held in Novi Sad on the 7th of July served as first step to lead the partner organizations from informal drug policy network in South Eastern Europe to a formal umbrella organization to be registered by the end of this year as South East European Drug Policy Network. Read more
Western Balkans Civil Society Forum 2015
On 26th August, around 100 representatives of civil society from the Western Balkans met to finalize recommendations delivered to EU and Western Balkans leaders present at the Vienna Summit. The recommendations focused on proposing measures on how to tackle challenges of youth and unemployment; freedom of expression and regional cooperation and called on WB leaders to support civil initiatives and networks who have so far showed very tangible results. While civil society has devised a set of steps to follow-up the civil society engagement at regional level, it is to be seen if WB leaders enhance dialogue with civil society as one of their priorities in reforms and whether the next Summit to take place in Paris in 2016 will provide space for further inclusion of civil society in discussing priority reforms at the highest level. Read more
DG NEAR Establishes Center for Thematic Expertise on Civil Society
As of 1st September, 2015, Center for Thematic Expertise on Civil Society, an internal “think-tank” in the DG started operating to bring together in-house expertise on civil society and allow for creation of synergies in the civil society portfolio the DG covers across Enlargement and Neighborhood regions. The Center is currently capacitated with 3 full-time staff, each devoted to one region (Enlargement, East and South Neighborhood) covered by the DG NEAR mandate. It should be made clear in the future to what extent the Center will be involved in the monitoring under the EU Civil Society Guidelines in Enlargement countries.
Western Balkans OGP Dialogue 2015
The governments of the Western Balkans have come together on the occasion of the Western Balkans OGP Dialogue 2015, hosted by IDM and the Minister of Innovation and Public Administration, in Tirana, Albania, on 10-11 September 2015, to discuss the state of play in the region in relation to progress on Open Government issues. Representatives from the EC and EU Governments emphasized the importance of the OGP in encouraging governments to allow CSOs and citizens’ participation in decision-making and thus to become more responsive and effective. The conference also featured many examples of good practices from the region in terms of creating open data sources, monitoring government budgets and accountability or creating mechanisms for participation. Read more
C20 Summit in Istanbul
The C20 Summit 2015 took place on 15th-16th September 2015 in Istanbul. Attended by 500+ civil society delegates from 52 countries, the summit was the climax of the C20 policy consultation and development process in 2015, providing a platform for participants to share their stories, present key facts, and develop joint advocacy strategies together. The major output of the Summit was the C20 Communiqué, which was drafted with the participation of all summit participants and endorsed by all during the final day of the summit. The final C20 communiqué was handed over to representatives of the 2015 G20 Presidency. Read more