Civil society is at a crossroads in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region. Over the past years CSOs have been affected by the changing economic, political and social developments. CSOs still face various challenges but they can also build on new opportunities. They need an environment which enables them to be independent and financially sustainable, have strong governance, engage in policy-making and mobilize public support. States have a duty to protect and take positive measures to establish and maintain such an enabling environment.
To support these efforts it was timely to assess the CSOs operational environment using a tool that is tailor-made for the region and captures these diverse trends. The CSO Meter- Assessing the civil society environment in the EaP countries (CSO Meter) is the first ever such tool developed for the region by the CSOs to support the regular and consistent monitoring of the environment in which CSOs operate in the EaP region. It was developed through a highly consultative and collaborative process funded by the European Union. It was co-drafted by a core group of local experts and consulted in 3 rounds with more than 800 CSOs across the region. Piloted in 2019, the CSO Meter assesses the civil society environment against a set of standards and indicators in 10 different areas. The monitoring has been a vibrant and ongoing process: Partners considered the input from 562 responses to the online surveys, 54 interviews and 19 focus group meetings with 188 CSO representatives across the region. Altogether 54 experts have overseen the monitoring process in the capacity of Advisory Board members and provided support for the development of the country reports. As a result of the monitoring, local partners formulated altogether 273 recommendations under the 10 enabling environment areas.
Based on the information in the country reports, ECNL developed a regional report to highlight the key trends and developments shaping civil society in the region and formulate recommendations to support efforts to strengthen the environment for CSOs. Key recommendations to the state and local authorities across the region include, among others, the need to:
• Simplify the registration procedure and allow online access.
• Improve the procedures for distributing public funding.
• Strengthen standards and practices for peaceful assemblies.
• Ensure effective public participation by law and in practices.
• Strengthen state – CSO cooperation in all areas of public life.
Key recommendations for the European Union include, among others, to:
• Use the findings and recommendations to support EU policies.
• Facilitate dialogue between CSOs and state authorities.
• Provide tailored and flexible financial support for civil society.
• Continue to monitor emerging trends and how they affect different CSO groups.
• Ensure that enabling environment for civil society development is included in the EU negotiations with governments.
On December 3, 2019 ECNL and its local partners, Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center (Armenia); MG Consulting LLC (Azerbaijan); Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs in collaboration with Legal Transformation Center (Belarus); Civil Society Institute (Georgia); Promo-LEX Association (Moldova); Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research (Ukraine) presented in Brussels the main findings and recommendations of the country and regional reports developed based on the CSO Meter. In terms of next steps, ECNL and its partners will evaluate the CSO Meter’s practical implementation and adjust it to ensure that no important issue or concern is missed.
The country and regional reports can be downloaded from the CSO Meter website: https://csometer.info/
For a summary of the CSO Meter, see our briefer: https://csometer.info/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/CSO-Meter-briefing-paper-new-final.pdf
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