“In 2019, we had a relatively enabling environment for civil society development. We can point out that CSOs were involved in drafting the texts of some of the most important laws, for example the Law on Free Access to Public Information, the Law on Prevention of Corruption and Conflict of Interest, the Law on Social Protection, the Law on Free Legal Aid and the like “, said Snezana Kamilovska Trpovska from MCIC, regarding the Report on enabling environment for civil society development for 2019, at the online discussion organised by the Civil Society Resource Centre. However, despite the generally good findings, she stressed that CSOs lack involvement in the policy-making process much earlier than the moment when they are already in the form of a draft or draft law.
According to the Report’s findings, state aid for civil society for 2019 not only did not increase according to the recommendations, but decreased by 13% compared to 2018. Although a comprehensive reform of the state funding model was announced, there have been no significant changes in that area.
Biljana Spasovska, from the Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN), shared regional experiences regarding the environment of associations that are very similar to our national ones. In particular, associations in the Balkans are mainly dependent on funding from foreign donors, while the existing public funding is not sustainable or meets their needs. The case is similar with the participation of organisations in decision-making, i.e. consultations with them are not done in the early stages.
One of the most pressing issues raised at the event was the operation of the Council for Cooperation with and Development of the Civil Society. Sabina Fakic, from the Center for Civil Communications and a representative of the Council, believes that the environment in which this body operates is not favourable and that the effects of its work are not maximized. She finds the reason for that in the Government, but also in the CSOs themselves.
Dushko Hristov from “Food Bank” raised the issue of inadequacy of the procedure for allocation of government funds on the call for Covid-19 activities and the responsibility of the Council in that process. Problems with state funding culminated in the COVID-19 pandemic when all funds were cut first, followed by a call for grants with incredibly short deadlines, and eventually for CSOs to be divided and to allow for civil society to be placed in a negative context. “In a pandemic, I believe you all know that the media also received financial support. We have not heard that financial support for them is related to pre-election bribery. However, we heard about maximum discrediting of CSOs, both those who won and those who did not. You will agree that this is something that is at the expense of all of us” Fakic said.
Irena Ivanova, from the Delegation of the European Union, spoke about the EU’s efforts to support the CSOs’ development, but also gave a general overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the civil society sector as it currently stands. She pointed out the need for unity and proactivity, because it is the organisations that are the main changers of the processes and that above all they represent the voice of the citizens. “The coronavirus situation has shown that it is the organisations that are successful and proactive that have traditionally and long-term worked with their constituents. They were the fastest, the most efficient because they know exactly what their target group needs and they have the necessary magic i.e. their trust.”