Exchanging good practices for monitoring and advocacy, improving accountability, and enhancing cooperation within the sector will empower civil society organizations to be more active in promoting an enabling environment and more effective in defending civic space. By improving their own accountability, CSOs can (re)gain legitimacy and trust from their constituencies, citizens, donors and the policy makers, and will contribute towards a more sustainable civil society.
As part of the Swiss support to promoting civic space, the Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN) organized a regional conference titled “The Role of the civil society organizations in Promoting Civic Space”, held on 21st June in Skopje. More than 40 civil society organisation representatives from the Western Balkans and Europe, discussed about ways to promote civic space and foster enabling environment for civil society. The conference is organised in the frame of the Swiss Civica MobilitasProgramme.
As a key note speaker, Dhananjayan Sivaguru Sriskandarajah, Secretary General of CIVICUS – World Alliance for citizen participation talked about trends of shrinking civic space all over the world and recommendations for civil society to address this issue. He also introduced the Civic Monitor tool that collects and shares data on the state of civil society freedoms in all countries.
The participants agreed that there is a need to reimagine the role of the citizens, as well as the civil society and democracy in general. Also, solidarity should be more practiced; civil society organisations and actors should share knowledge, resources and support each other’s causes. It is a priority for CSOs to improve and adjust their practices to new challenges, needs and actors and to improve their transparency and accountability. The civic space is not just about civil society; it should also embrace diverse stakeholders such as trade unions, media, businesses and all new forms of civil society and collective or individual civic engagement.
Civica Mobilitas is a programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, implemented by NIRAS (Denmak), MCIC (Macedonia) and SIPU (Sweden). It began in October 2014 and will last until the end of 2018. The total budget of the programme amounts to approximately 8 million Swiss Francs.