On 30th January, the Macedonian TACSO Office and the General Secretariat of the Government-Unit for Cooperation with NGOs organized a public workshop on the 2nd version of the draft Decision for the Establishment of a Council for Cooperation between the Government and Civil Society Sector. Ms. Suzana Nikodijevic-Filipovska, representative of the General Secretariat, presented the latest version of the decision with the emphasis on the main changes it underwent as a result of a 30-day call for consultation published on 20th November, 2014. Then, two working groups were created to discuss (1) competences and the composition of the Council and (2) the procedure for election of civil society members in the Council. In the end, both groups presented their comments and proposals to each other and to the government representatives.
Originally, the 1st draft Decision proposed that candidates coming from civil society would be elected by associations and foundations directly. Furthermore, these candidates should fulfill a number of eligibility criteria for both the organization that nominates and supports them and individually. The new version of the draft Decision contains significant changes in the procedure, whereby the election of the civil society representatives should be conducted through a Government Commission, where five out of nine members (i.e. the majority) would be government-appointed representatives (Art. 9). The CSOs representatives expressed concerns that these changes might undermine the representation and the legitimacy of the Council and asked for direct and public election of the civil society representatives by associations and foundations as envisaged in the 1st draft Decision. Another important change that appears in the 2nd draft Decision is the proposal that the Government elects the president of the Council from the civil society members, while the vice president would be elected by the Council itself.
The latest version of the decision for the establishment of the Council integrates some of thecomments and proposals submitted by BCSDN in cooperation with MCIC and 57 CSOs during the online consultation in December 2014. For example, the mandate of the Council members is changed to be 3 years as suggested, and the Council will have at least four meetings annually. However, the CSOs demands for coverage of the financial costs of the representatives related to the work of the Council were not integrated in the latest decision draft, hindering effective and equal inclusion of representatives from outside of the capital city. At the consultation, CSOs demanded further refinement of the areas in which representatives from the Government and the civil society will be elected. CSOs were united in the demand for including a representative from the Ministry for Interior Affairs in the work of the Council, because of the significance which this ministry has for the protection of civic rights and liberties. It is not clear whether further consultation would be undertaken on the part of the General Secretariat especially on the issues of procedure of election of civil society representatives.
The TACSO workshop in Skopje was attended by Tanja Hafner Ademi, BCSDN Executive Director, and Milka Ivanovska, Junior Policy and Advocacy Officer (TTF Fellow). The text of the latest draft can be found here.