CSOSI 2017 for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia: Closing Space for CSOs in the Region

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The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) published the 21st edition of their Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index (CSOSI) for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, covering developments in 24 countries in the region during calendar year 2017. Half of the countries covered reported regression in the legal environments governing their CSO sectors in 2017, though the level of CSO sustainability continues to vary widely across the region. While the closing of civic space has been well-documented in the last several editions of the CSOSI, in 2017 governments of a more diverse range of countries further tightened control over their CSO sectors, including both those that have long been ruled by repressive regimes as well as long-standing European Union members.

The CSOSI’s regional report for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia is produced by USAID in partnership with FHI 360, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), and an implementing partner in each participating country. BCSDN has partnered with FHI 360 to produce the CSOSI for Macedonia, examining the overall sustainability of the CSO sector, by looking at seven specific dimensions of sustainability: legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, sectoral infrastructure, and public image.

The first half of 2017 in Macedonia was heavily marked by a “de-Sorosization” campaign, aimed to expose CSOs as criminals and traitors and severely weakened civil society’s work, resources, and reputation. Both pro-government media and state institutions carried out orchestrated attacks and smear campaigns against CSOs, accusing them of allegedly serving foreign interests to politically destabilize the country. In early 2017, twenty-two organizations that were critical of the previous government were subject to inspections by the Public Revenue Office and other institutions. Although overall CSO sustainability did not change during the year, the hostile environment contributed to a deterioration in the legal environment for CSOs and the sector’s public image. At the same time, improvements were noted in financial viability, advocacy, service provision, and sectoral infrastructure. The new government has shown willingness to cooperate with CSOs in policy dialogue and decision-making processes. CSOs have increased their constituency-building efforts. Even with the change in political atmosphere in the second half of the year, however, civil society continued to face many problems. CSOs and activists still have to operate within a dismal economic reality and a difficult political situation influenced by political conflicts both within and outside the country.

The full CSOSI 2017 regional report is available here. The report for Macedonia is also available in Macedonian and English language and will be presented in more details at a public presentation organized by BCSDN on the 4th October 2018 in Skopje.

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