In the Albanian context, where decentralization has started to move ahead, citizens have high expectations of local government (LG), yet they lack awareness of LG roles and responsibilities. As
result, LG-s is often held responsible, for the poor quality of many public services, some of which relate to functions of the central government. Criteria for budget allocation are often ad hoc, there is
shortage of funds and political negotiations often influence the distribution. Lack of knowledge of Lgs in engaging citizens in governance, civic passiveness and fragile local institutions have substantially contributed to citizens’ mistrust and cynicism. Citizen mistrust has also resulted in poor payment of tax, creating a vicious cycle. There is a strong need for a systematic approach to encourage civic engagement in the governance process, helping to build trust, improve local service delivery and tax compliance while aligning policy formulation to people’s needs and aspirations.
To address these governance challenges, the World Bank supported pilot activities aimed at building a demand side for better government and strengthening city participation in the governance process in Albania. Participatory Budgeting Pilot (PBP) in Albania, was designed with the objective to improve local governance and accountability in Albania by (1) building the capacity of local government officials and civic groups to engage in consultations that are focused and goal-oriented towards solving community problems; and, (2) on a pilot basis, introducing short and long term mechanisms to institutionalize citizen voice in government decision making. The long-term objective is to create opportunities for social inclusion in public decision-making.
The PBP activity tests mechanisms that increase citizen participation in decision making in the local
budget process in Albania. The desired outcome of the participatory budgeting method is to provide citizens with an opportunity to participate in the financial decision-making process of local government and test mechanisms that foster this participation. Participation rises more quickly when the government commits significant support and resources to the PB. Participation appears to rise because citizens realize that there is a direct connection between the time they dedicate to PB and changes in policy outcomes. Citizens that did not initially participate in PB are drawn into the process, as it becomes clear that the principal way to secure public works or changes in broader social policies is through participation in PB.
PB programs act as “citizenship schools”. The first stage of the PB process, at the beginning of the yearly budgetary cycle, mainly consists of information meetings. These meetings provide governments, NGOs and the most well-informed activists the opportunity to discuss matters pertaining to the budget, government authority and responsibility, taxation and citizenship rights (social, political and civil rights). New citizens are inundated with information while long-time participants sharpen their own understandings. During the initial ‘empowerment’ meetings, participants are taught about their rights, their duties as citizens and the responsibility of the government.
Generally, Albanian citizens display high levels of “indifference” towards involvement in various social actions, which is a common feature of societies in transition or early stages of post-transition with a relatively unsettled middle class and high levels of inequities. The fact that a considerable majority of respondents in the Population Survey (60.7%) describe themselves as belonging to the lower middle class, working class or lower corroborates collective behaviour theorists’ argument that lower classes participation in collective action is traditionally low. Only 18.4% of respondents describe themselves as active members of social organisations such as sport clubs, voluntary or service organisations. The survey indicates a high correlation between “social membership” and “social volunteering” as 18.1% of respondents reported doing voluntary work for at least one social organisation. A slightly better score was recorded for “Community engagement”. 29.4% of respondents reported engaging several times a year in social activities with other people at sports clubs or voluntary/service organisations.
The survey results indicate that Albanian citizens are more likely to spend time sporadically with people in social activities than in being active members of social organisations. They are also less likely to dedicate time to voluntary work. This may be a consequence of the high percentage of the respondents describing themselves as “lower middle class” or lower. It may also be linked to the continuing prevailing perception that “volunteerism” is a phenomenon of the communist dictatorship.
Civic engagement in Albania displays serious concerns over a limited breadth and depth of social and political engagement despite the high degree of diversity within such a limited engagement. While indifference and even “apathy” towards civil society actions and activism in general has significantly impacted socially-based engagement, citizens appear slightly more active and committed when it comes to politically-based engagement. Despite the low levels of confidence in political actors and some of the state institutions (e.g. the judiciary) it seems that politically-active-citizens see affiliation with political organisations as a shortcut to the solution of their personal economic or other concerns. This points to a mindset that change comes from the top, from the government or other sources of centralized power. Of course, there is room to hope for a change in this mindset, which to a certain extent is a traditional “by-traveller” of societies in transition or early stages of post-transition era. For a majority of citizens the main motivation to engage in civil society actions are “shared values” and “trust in organizers”, as opposed to almost 1/3 of them whose motivation is derived from personal interest. However, change will not come solely from actions oriented towards changing individual’s mindsets; their confidence in elected institutions and more generally their trust in a governance system that can function without any interference from political shortcuts must be gradually increased. Civic engagement will become attractive for citizens within the space that their economic status allows for once they see that the processes, the actors and the governance system they struggle to influence do function normally in a polity with democratic values and principles. In an ideal situation, this will be reflected in diametrically reverse trends than the current prevailing ones, with the majority of citizens showing greater readiness to react against illegitimate actions of institutions not only when personally concerned and with higher trust and confidence in state institutions, labour unions, civil society, the media and other actors.
This case describes a community mobilization process example which was undertaken in Aghavnadzor village, Armenia in summer 2005. This case has been chosen with the purpose to show how important the first step is in the process of community mobilization. In this case, in a community with very low level of civic participation and activity of the citizens, the choice of the right fist step has served as the trigger of display of activity and has helped group of activists to gain trust of a community members and having consolidated efforts to solve independently using internal resources of a community, a number of problems and to build self-confidence in the community.
After change of regime all infrastructure has been destroyed and all objects of communal significance fell into decay. Owing to fruit-bearing ground, to a favourable climate and advanced agriculture the region has quickly become well off, but it concerned only to economical well-being of the population. A few large wine-making companies and other processing factories were opened in region that has given to peasants a commodity market. Thus the population of village becomes rich enough, but the village itself as a community is in decline: there is no infrastructure, the objects of communal significance, such as the school, sports complex, palace of culture, roads, etc. are in a sad state or simply are absent. Inhabitants are basically concerned about crop problems. As to problems of the community, inhabitants expect that they are to be solved by external forces, by intervention from the outside or by the state as it was during the communist regime.
During last 2-3 years in the given region and in Aghavnadzor in particular, various programs aimed at mobilization of communities and increase of level of civic participation and activisation of youth have started to be realized by a number of the international organizations. Within the framework of program Youth and community mobilization implementing by AED/USAID the youth club has been created in Aghavnadzor. It was supposed, that this club will carry out various civic initiatives and will mobilize a community for the solving of problems of village. But as it very often happens in Armenia, the club had formal character and was focused not on the solving of problems of a community but on the requirement of the donor.
During training the problems of community have been discussed. Such questions as absence of places of cultural, absence of employment of youth and the ensuring of free pastime, i.e. a football field unsuitable to the use, the non-functioning palace of culture, an infrastructure of a community, etc. have been raised. Repeatedly the opinion was that all specified problems demand external intervention such as both display of initiative and financing, and without it the problems cannot be solved. The idea to collect this money among inhabitants of village has been discussed. But all the members of club have unanimously expressed their opinion that in spite of the fact that any family can allocate the sum, nobody will do it.
The trainers proposed to begin the work on mobilization of community with something small but very concrete and useful for whole community. Such issue can be the one which was mentioned by training participants occasionally but it seamed to be the most urgent one as it touched all members of community and everybody is directly interested in its solution. The training took place in June and vintage was coming. All farmers remembered the experience of the last year when there were some fatal cases from a sting of the snake as there was no serum in ambulance station of village.
So, at the end of the training by youth club members it was decided to lead the process of resource mobilization for purchasing the serum. Technical aspects such as the price of serum (which made quite a big sum for the community) have been presented to the community. Then, together with the members of community the approximate sum has been calculated for each farm and the decision was made by all the community, that it is quite possible to collect such sum and to buy the serum. Gathering of money and purchase of serum was carried out by the members of youth club. The report on collected sum and expenses has been posted up at the building of village mayor. Serum has been placed in ambulance station and all inhabitants felt insured from an accident.
This initiative had its consequences:
· the members of youth club have gained the trust of the community members
· youth club members built self-confidence, they believe in themselves
· more and more young people express their will to become members of youth club
· local authorities promised to support the youth club in all its activities
1. Usually donors are trying to mobilize the community without assessing the real need and taking into consideration capacity of the community. This brings to creation of formal structures such as CAGs, clubs, etc. which exist only on the paper. Their “activism” lasts as long as there is some donors support. Only the detailed and careful study of the situation in the community/context can help to avoid this kind of formalism and assure certain sustainability of civic activism.
2. It is very important to prioritise the issues and start the process of mobilization around the issue which is the most urgent one, touched all members of community and everybody is directly interested in its solution. It is always better to start with something small and concrete rather to target difficult problems even if they are urgent and important. The solution of a small problem is very visible and can be a solid base for gaining the community trust.
3. It is very important to select proper time frame. In the case described above the time was very favourable for mobilizing the community around serum absence problem, because of coming vintage.
4. All the process had strong psychological effect; people saw how they can solve their own local problems themselves, with the resources of their own community. This is something they would remember for the future, creating a long-term positive effect on the development of their communities.
The overall score for social membership (11.7%) is significantly higher than a figure obtained in the 2003-2006 phase of CIVICUS CSI implementation in Armenia (2-3%). One of the reasons for the increase in the membership rates might be the increased trust of non-governmental organisations. Another is the recent exit of weaker non-profit organisations due to a decrease in foreign funding, leaving stronger organisations, more focused on their mission and public agenda, operating in the field.
Volunteerism in Armenia has manifested itself in various forms, from the so-called “compulsory, coercive volunteering” with the former Soviet government, which mostly required that citizens provide free services to public projects, to “natural, freewill volunteering” such as after the 1988 Spitak earthquake and during the Karabakh conflict in the early 1990s, when thousands of people voluntarily assisted earthquake victims, refugees and other vulnerable groups (Tadevosyan and Hakobyan, 2010). The Armenia Democracy and Governance Indicators survey of 2005 found that 66.7% of Armenian citizens were engaged in charitable or volunteer activity (USAID, 2005).
Indeed, CIVICUS CSI data for the 2003-2006 phase shows that high percentages of voluntary engagement in Armenia are on account of informal volunteering: assistance to neighbours, friends, co-workers, refugees, and people living with disabilities (Aslanyan et al., 2007: 29). This finding shows that informal, unmanaged volunteering is the dominant form of volunteering in Armenian culture, with formal volunteering through organisations still underdeveloped (Tadevosyan and Hakobyan, 2010a).
The CIVICUS CSI Community sample survey (phase 2003-2006) found that 64% of the respondents had participated in discussions of issues arising within their community (Aslanyan et al., 2007). Moreover, there is evidence that ordinary community members actively participate in the life of their communities by making cash or in-kind contributions and providing voluntary labour for various communal initiatives. On the other hand, the level of participation of local community members in the decision-making, with regard to the formulation and design of local policies and programmes and resource allocation, is usually low (Babajanyan, 2009).
Over the past few years, Armenian environmental organisations have accumulated sufficient skills and know-how for initiating campaigns against environmentally hazardous policies, increasing the public’s exposure to and awareness of environmental issues and threats and of leading public campaigns. In this quest, the environmental organisations have managed to overcome certain obstacles that had paralysed their effective operations before. Many environmental organisations have shifted from ‘staying separate’ to starting cohesive and joint work toward common goals. Further, they have developed the advocacy skills that contributed to their effective functioning. Environmental organisations’ strategies for policy change now more often target all of the relevant decision-making layers. Additionally, two external factors shape the ability of Armenian environmental coalition to influence environmental policy – the Armenian Diaspora as an important and influential player in domestic decision-making of the Republic of Armenia and the involvement of an international network of environmental CSOs, mobilized by the Armenian environmental coalition around the issues deemed perilous. As this study shows, the synergy of all these factors serves as a catalyst of success for Armenian environmentalists’ campaigns.
Possibly the major lesson that all Armenian civil society organisations can draw from the experience of the environmental organisations is that the trust and support of the grassroots is crucial when influencing policy. It is not surprising that the campaigns of environmentalists were most successful if and when they were backed up by firm sponsorship of the public. Further, the Armenian Diaspora has always proven to be a strong figure in the social and political life of Armenia. This is a powerful player that should not be left out. Public communication and mobilization campaigns should therefore be used widely to guarantee the strength and breadth of public pressure on policymakers for the desired policy changes. Presenting viable alternatives to the contested projects has proven to be another instrument that helps environmental campaigns to succeed. Finally, history has shown that when acting alone, the impact of Armenian CSOs is limited in scope and scale. The practice of Armenian environmental organisations to engage in policy influence through joint, rather than standalone initiatives, has to be duplicated if Armenian CSOs are to engage in policy processes more effectively.
Tackling Armenia’s environmental issues is a large task for CSOs in this country. Some of the major ecological problems in Armenia include: pollution of soil, air and water from nuclear power plants, deforestation, and more recently nonrenewable natural resources and transforming arable lands into deserts and swamps, as well as illegal fishing and deforestation. In urban areas, public parks have been taken over by private coffee bars, hotels and other development projects, despite public protests. Private land has also been bought up by private parties to build high-rise buildings, reducing access to low cost housing, blocking views and adding to traffic congestion and air pollution.
Only two ecological political parties exist, and these have no representation in parliament. Twenty-five CSOs perceive the protection of the environment as the responsibility of government, especially considering the existence of a special environmental ministry. To complement the activities of the government, they see their own role as the following:
# Revealing urgent environmental problems
# Collecting facts and conducting independent ecological research
# Attracting civil society’s attention to environmental issues
# Organising campaigns to lobby government on issues relating to the environment
# Controlling the implementation of ecological projects
According to the Community Surveys conducted during the CSI project, 2-3% of the respondents felt informed about ecological organisations, and the role of environmental organisations was rated as being only limited to moderate within Armenia civil society. Despite this small representation within the social consciousness of Armenia and Armenian CS, it has undertaken several successful local projects and initiatives. These include the establishment of a coalition to aid an international forest protection project, protesting against the construction of a highway among a unique plantation in the south of the country and succeeding in changing the route envisioned in the project, and requesting adoption of the law on special concessions on mineral resources mining. With the formation of a regional ecological centre sponsored by European countries, local CSOs have also started to take part in regional ecological projects.
Apathy and scepticism about civic participation is commonly found in Azerbaijan. For the most part, ordinary people are not very interested or willing to take part in informal voluntary action. The extent of citizen participation in Azerbaijan is characterised by rather higher levels of participation in non-partisan political actions and charitable giving, and extremely low levels of civic activism at the community level, volunteering and CSO membership. The level of organisation within Azerbaijani civil society remains low, with limited communication and cooperation among CSOs and across the different sectors.
According to the Community Survey, in the last five years 11% of respondents wrote at least one letter to a newspaper, 20% signed a petition, and 11% took part in a demonstration. The same survey revealed that in 2005, 29% of respondents gave money or in-kind gifts, such as clothes and food, for charitable purposes. The Community Survey also showed that 21% of respondents are members of at least one CSO. The most popular types of CSOs were trade unions (14%) and educational organisations and groups (4%). Membership in each of the other types of CSO did not exceed 3%. 9% of respondents did some form of volunteer work in the previous year. Only 2% of survey participants volunteered with any particular CSO, while 8% participated in informal voluntary work during the last year. The most frequent type of volunteer work included taking care of the elderly and disabled people, helping in agricultural work and participation in repairing schools. According to the Community Survey, a small minority (13%) of respondents took part in community meetings, while 19% of respondents participated in community activities in the last 12 months. Overall, 22% of participants took part in at least one meeting in their community or participated in some form of collective community action.
There is a generally low impression of CSOs actions to sustain the environment. For example, 27% of respondents viewed CSOs actions to be insignificant in this area, while 43% thought they were limited, 22% noted that their actions were average, and lastly, only 9% saw them as significant. There are several CSOs promoting environmental sustainability, including the Azerbaijan Society for Nature Studies, International Ecology Fund “Mother Kura River”, Society for Beekeeping and Environment Protection, Public Association for Protection of Flora and Fauna, Center of Ornithology, Center for Ecological Innovations, Azerbaijan Green Movement, Public Association for Biological Diversity, Public Association “Mountain Air”, Public Association “ECO”, Rehabilitation Center for Ecology and Psychology, Public Association for Ecological Education and Monitoring, “Ecological Balance”, Public Association for Journalist-Ecologists, Children Ecological Organisation “Flower/Floret”, Azerbaijan Society for Animals Protection, Public Institute “National Health and Ecology”, “Women and Ecology”, Public Ecological Association “Ruzgar”, “For Clean Caspian See” and the Ecotourism Public Association “Shafag.”
While civil society generally advances some ideas related to environmental protection, independent activities are minimal and most activities are related to and supported by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources in Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, some CSOs actively protect and carry out campaigns to protect the “green zone” of Baku and mobilise social interest in relation to the dangers (oil pollution, dump of waste products), which threaten the Caspian Sea, including its flora and fauna.
However, many of these activities do not bring the desired effect, as ecological movements are not always capable of influencing oil companies and the executive authorities of Baku (i.e. mayor’s office). There are several CSOs promoting innovative programs providing water supply, water drain and power supply services to marginalised segments of the population. This initiative has sparked serious interest and is implemented with the help of the World Bank. Additionally, the Center for the Research of Environmental Problems has received a grant for its human rights project, which includes the preservation of the environment. The President of the Center has noted that the innovative project of the ecological sphere covers three aspects of environmental sustainability - the use of polymeric waste products, waste products in manufacturing aluminium (red dust), and the banning of illegal logging.
30% of respondents could not mention any examples of public campaigns, actions or programs that focused protection of environment, carried out by civil society in Azerbaijan for last year, while 37% of the respondents could mention only one or two examples. An additional 27% of respondents could provide some examples and only 7% of the participants were able to list many examples. Some of the examples that were identifies include: trees planting campaigns; ecological actions on the oil pipeline of BTC; campaigns around Gabala Russian military RLS; anti-pollution campaigns in the Caspian sea; activity of Southern youth ecological public association ECOSOS; joint actions of municipalities and ECORES in Mingachevir; carrying out “subbotnics” together with the mayor office of Baku; monitoring of infringements of ecological rules during construction/building in Baku; collecting/gathering children's signatures in protection of animals in restaurants.
The project on stimulation of civil participation was aimed at solving the following main problems:
1. To expand civil participation and to increase the role of civil society organizations in Belarus;
2. To involve Belarus’ civil society organizations in a wide public discussion concerning the aims and tasks of civil society in the Eastern Partnership initiative in Belarus;
3. To work out and coordinate thematic and procedural proposals for the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership;
4. To distribute the Active Citizenship Charter in Belarus and to involve a broad number of civil society organizations in the Eastern Partnership initiative as a practice of the implementation of the Charter’s articles.
The project’s activities included
1. The implementation of a PR campaign to inform wide layers of representatives of civil society about the Active Citizenship Charter with the help of the Internet.
2. A round table in Homiel on 31 October 2009 “Participation of civil society in the initiative of the Eastern Partnership at a regional level”, with a discussion of the Active Citizenship Charter concerning pressing questions of participation of Belarus’ civil society in the initiative of the Eastern Partnership
3. The implementation on 2 November 2009 of the conference “The Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership: the agenda for Belarus”, during which a discussion of the Active Citizenship Charter and the role of civil participation in the actual situation of preparation of the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership was started.
This case is a description of successful joint implementation of big community event – “Day of microregion” – that took place in Minsk, Belarus in autumn 2005. This case was chosen by the authors with the aim to show importance, opportunities and consequences of self-organizing citizens for joint activities at local level.
In this case the authors try to describe possible ways of changing mentality of local inhabitants, who have no tradition of self-responsibility and common actions within community and fully rely on the efforts of local authorities in solving all community problems. There is an example of creating and cultivating another approach to building relations, cooperation and sharing responsibilities between various community players and citizens at local level.
Belarus has got its independence in 1991 together with most of other Soviet Republics after being a part of USSR and Russian Empire for the last two centuries. Therefore it is easier to understand that the country has got in legacy all strong and weak points of soviet society. After the short period of both economical chaos and national renascence (1991-1994) during the last 12 years Belarus lives under the power of Alexander Lukashenko. This first president of Belarus tries “to enter the same river twice” and build new Soviet Belarus in modern time using wide arsenal of methods: form liquidating freedom of information till replacing local self-government by president “vertical line”. Keeping in mind that local communities during the USSR times were also very far from the aim of development of local self-government and citizens' participation it is easier to understand that modern Belarus has extremely limited social-political opportunities for local community development. This problem exists in its strongest forms especially in localities with high level of urbanization – Minsk city as a capital of Belarus as well as other big cities of the country. Additional reason for that was a lack of social contacts and interaction between people when they live in one part of a city, work at another part, go shopping or have friends somewhere else because of expanded urban infrastructure.
Our organization decided to put its efforts on establishing and testing an urbanized model of community development in micro-district “Zahad” situated in western part of Minsk city. Rather big part of inhabitants of micro-district “Zahad” (as well as Belarusian society at large) has an opinion that in modern Belarusian social, economical and political almost nothing depends on ordinary citizens. People think that their living environment is determined from outside and they can’t make their life better by changing this environment. It is necessary to admit that there are some reasons for such point of view. The authorities declare their interest to developing local self-government but in reality they do not initiate any noticeable steps in this direction. Before starting activity of Education Center “POST” on local level in micro-district “Zahad” (with 60000 inhabitants) there were no public structures and initiatives involved in analysis and solving local problems (self-government committees, condominiums etc.). Other initiatives of active citizens mostly existed on a non-regular basis and didn’t influence the situation effectively enough. In the same time some local problems in the community are very often more connected to passiveness of inhabitants or with lack of practical experience in advocating their interests, than to absence of mechanisms of influencing the situation.
In most of cases local authorities are under strong pressure and control from national authorities, which are not interested in establishing dialogue with community activists and civil society organizations. As there is no real local self-government in Belarus such a pressure from higher authorities influences the position of local authorities rather noticeably. Nevertheless some of them are able to build their own strategy of interaction with local communities’ activists. In this direction administration of Frunzenski district of Minsk city is rather unique example of positive position of local authorities towards raising the role, activeness and participation of population in solving local problems. With assistance of Center “POST” it became possible to find and build cooperation with those inhabitants who really have some initiatives and have something to suggest for solving problems on local level but have a lack of effective mechanisms to reach this aim. They needed some support and assistance of NGO, which are competent in the sphere of organizing common work and dialogue between different counterparts and groups of society.
The most active social groups, those highly interested in achieving the task of self-organizing within the local community are young people (14-20 years old) and retired people. There are 2 reasons for that. On one hand these groups are very much dependant on situation in the community as they spend here most of their time (study, spare time etc.). On the other hand these social groups have great resource of time and energy to be involved in various activities within the community. With the aim to organize and structure interaction and dialogue between different players in this community Center “POST” with support of Counterpart Alliance for Partnership (USAID financing) in year 2003 initiated establishing Public Club of Micro-region “Zahad” – special communication and interaction platform both for local citizens and various structures and organizations functioning there (local branch of Red Cross, Center of Social Assistance of Inhabitants, Children Creativity Club “Harmony” etc.). It took about 2 years to reach first successes and build real interaction between people and organizations oriented at the aim of community development.
The activity of civil society is ever increasing in Belarus — networks of resource centres, umbrella organisations for youth, women, and social welfare associations, centres for training and research, hundreds of civil society publications and web sites and, of course, thousands of grassroots organisations. The development of civil society in Belarus in the past years is an indication of the transformation it — along with other Central and Eastern European countries — is going through, as it moves from a communist to a pluralistic society. Yet in Belarus, the progress of civil society has been different from that of most other post-Soviet countries. In Belarus, the old Soviet system had not exhausted its resources by the mid-1980s, and still had potential to develop. At the time when the Gorbachev’s ‘Perestroika’ began, the Belarusian society was not ripe for reforms. Here, democratisation and other reforms were not spontaneous processes from within the country, but rather imposed from the outside, mainly from Russia. The obstacles facing civil society development in Belarus include the existence of a weak national consciousness, an underdeveloped private sector, the absence of a middle class and apathetic mass attitudes towards public issues. The development of a strong and vibrant civil society will therefore be significantly more difficult than in most other post-totalitarian states in Europe, where these problems are less extensive. The elements of civil society that are now coming into being affect only a tiny section of society, mostly the elite; but such an elitist system might be a necessary stage in the transition to a civil society that is deeply embedded in broader society.
Belarus civil society has yet to become a legitimate partner with the state and the market in a democratic system of governance. It needs to be integrated into the international civil society networks to promote citizen interests both locally and globally. Belarus demonstrates encouraging examples in this respect. The Belarus Campaign to Ban Landmines initiated by The Support Centre for Associations and Foundations (SCAF) in 1998 is one example. In co-operation with the Nobel Prize Laureate International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the Belarus campaign has recently managed to convince the Belarus authorities to disclose classified information on the landmines stockpiles, and to sign the Ottawa Treaty on the prohibition of anti-personnel mines. International civil society organisations assisted Belarus counterparts in negotiating with western governments and donors to secure funding for the landmine removal in Belarus. This is a good example of how civil society in Belarus has successfully moved the Belarus government toward closer adherence to international standards and promoted solution of a humanitarian problem. A great deal of work still remains to be done, however, to develop Belarus civil society into an influential actor in larger Belarusian society.
Citizen participation in CSOs received a rating of 71%, indicating that stakeholders believe CSOs have an active membership base. However, there still is a great potential to increase citizen participation as a means of solving the social and economic and political problems facing Belarus society. This growth is hampered by a lack of appropriate management of volunteers. According to the research conducted in 1999 (Levchenko 1999), Belarusians are willing to be involved in volunteering because:
• They want to help people – 61% • The opportunity to meet new people – 29%
• They hope to learn something new – 46% • They want to pay people back for the good – 11%
• They want to have an occupation – 41% • They want to solve problems – 7%
• They do it for their own pleasure – 31% • They have free time – 4%
Through active cooperation with formal and informal groups of citizens and individuals in the most of BiH municipalities, the Centres for Civic Initiatives (CCI) has recognized citizens’ dissatisfaction because of insufficient involvement in the processes of planning, creation, and implementation of local budgets. The researches have showed that there aren’t clear procedures that should define a model and quality of citizens’ participation in the processes mentioned. In attempt to make the cooperation between citizens and representatives of municipal governments function as systematic and qualitative one, CCI has developed a mechanism which helps local governments involve a big number of citizens in the budgeting process.
With the purpose of a transparent making of municipal budget and systematic involvement of citizens in the process of planning, adoption, and its implementation as possible, CCI has initiated making, adoption and application of “The Decision on the Survey as a method of citizens’ opinion research regarding priority problems at the level of local communities and the Criteria according to which the priorities are ranked and selected” (shortly The Decision on the Survey and the Criteria). The Decision on the Survey and the Criteria provides systematic increase of citizens’ participation from a year to a year in the budgeting process, and the Criteria provide transparent selection, ranking and defining of the priority problems. The Decision establishes that the Survey is the main “tool” by which the citizens will define priority problems in local communities, and the Criteria is the method that will be used by the competent municipal bodies while creating and passing a draft of the budget.
Depending on several parameters which differ from municipality to municipality, the criteria have been modified, in cooperation with citizens and local governments’ representatives, and as such they provide equal and fair allocation of the budget to all local communities. The Decision on the Survey and the Criteria is adopted my municipal assembly in accordance with the proposal of the executive component of municipal government (Mayor’s Office, the Mayor).
Through this model of increasing of citizens’ participation in the budgeting process at local level in
BiH, during implementation period, over 500,000 BiH citizens were indirectly involved in the
processes of planning, creation and implementation of local budgets.
Issue-driven public participation process in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Interaction between ordinary citizens and local governments was mostly inadequate before 2003 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Government decision-making was overly influenced by strictly party-political motivations. In addition, decisions were often taken literally behind closed doors and with no oversight.
In the years 2003 and 2004, the Local Government Support Activity Project has developed domestic capacity to initiate and develop issue-driven public participation processes. The purpose was to create opportunities and vehicles for citizens to relay their priorities and concerns, and for local governments to explain to their constituents the constraints they work under and develop the institutional culture of seeking and receiving citizen feedback. Potential tools were planned to involve simple “how to” pamphlets for citizens on various local government services, or encouraging better use of already existing but underutilised channels of communication (i.e., public hearings). The goal was to increase local governments’ responsiveness to their constituents and to build understanding among citizens as to why decentralisation would benefit them. The program also increased citizen input into local government decision-making. As result of intensive and committed work in several municipalities, budget public hearings have been prepared and conducted, various types of brochures have been developed and media campaigns have gathered a large number of population.
Over the past couple of years, BiH citizens are increasingly motivated to participate in local governance processes that impact their own lives. In support of this overarching goal, participatory communication and citizen feedback mechanisms and tools, such as deliberative bodies, community radio, citizen report cards, community score cards, citizens’ juries, and participatory budgeting are crucial.
The number of registered NGOs in BiH was estimated to be 12,189 in 2008. Although more work needs to be done to increase citizen involvement and philanthropy, there is a clear increase in informal support for diverse NGO initiatives, which can be attributed to the greater use of Internet tools.
The overall level of NGO sector sustainability did not improve significantly in 2009, though there were some improvements in organizational capacity, infrastructure and public image. Recruitment of volunteers by NGOs has slightly increased, yet few organizations have made it a practice to recruit interns or volunteers. NGOs generally remain unable to sustain full-time staff, and most employees work on a volunteer or project basis.
The government recognizes NGO expertise in analysis and identification of target groups’ needs, but the government does not sufficiently recognize the benefits of utilizing NGOs to provide basic services. This is particularly evident at the local level of governance, where officials consult NGOs on issues related to their specific areas of expertise, but engage these organizations as service providers only in isolated instances. The range of goods and services provided by the NGO sector is still underdeveloped and services in spheres other than social services remain underfunded. Most service-providing NGOs are in the medical field, offering free health consultations, education, physical examination, and testing.
The public shows greater understanding of and support for NGOs’ work. Web technology allows the public to find information about NGOs and to participate in NGOs’ activities and debates. NGOs still lag behind when it comes to self-regulation, transparency in their internal operations, and the publishing of annual reports.
Cooperative actions on issues of public interest increased. The Citizens’ Coordination (CC) coalition initiated by the organizations DOSTA (Enough), Zasto Ne, and ACIPS is a loose network of diverse civil society associations representing labor unions, veterans, pensioners, persons with disabilities, farmers, professional associations and other NGOs. Despite the diverse interests of its members, the CC acted in a unified manner and developed a joint proposal of measures needed for BiH to overcome the financial crisis. CC lobbied the government to have its proposal presented at the emergency parliamentary session in May 2009. The proposal was not properly considered under parliamentary procedure on the grounds that it was not distributed to the parliamentarians in a timely manner. Still, this was the first large-scale, cross-sector civil society action of its kind.
This case study describes a citizen participation initiative, which was realized on April 21st in the small town of Sevlievo, Bulgaria. 20 students from all the schools in the town joined the government of Sevlievo Municipality together with the mayor and his team. Each youth had his position in the hierarchy of the municipality – even the mayor had his substitute. The initiative was aimed at informing the young people on the structure and the functions of the local authorities and to increase their involvement in the design-making process as well.
Over 11 000 of the population are young people aged from 16 to 35 years. As Sevlievo is a small town that doesn’t offer opportunities for higher education and professional development, most of the youths leave the town after they finish secondary school and do not come back. In 2002 the young people got active and created a Youth Centre to involve the youths in the social life of the municipality. Since the creation of the Centre it works in close partnership with C.E.G.A. Foundation.
The problem of the young people in Bulgaria and Sevlievo in particular is that they all want an alteration of the present situation but very few of them try to achieve it. Other problem is that even if they have the desire to change their life in positive, the youths do not know how to do it. This specific form of apathy is a main problem, which all youth organizations try to solve. The motivation of the youths to work for an alteration and thus for themselves has been an objective of the Youth Centre Sevlievo since its creation. In order to increase its capacity and to obtain experience from other youth organizations the Centre joined the “Youth in Action” network, set up by C.E.G.A Foundation. After a number of initiatives and campaigns the young people in Sevlievo turned out to be more motivated and willing to work voluntary for their own future. However, the question “How to change the situation?” still stands in front of the youths. From their own experience they understood that the partnership with the local authorities is an obligatory part of every project and initiative especially in a small town like Sevlievo. But it turned out that most of the young people do not know the structure, the functions and the responsibilities of the people who work in the local authorities. The participation of the young people in the decision-making process is also impossible because of the lack of information and dialogue.
The low score for civic engagement is mainly due to the low levels of participation in the organisational structures of civil society and low levels of interpersonal trust, which affects the functioning of civil society as a whole. CSOs are seen to act primarily for rather than with citizens and do not operate under citizens’ mandate. Thus citizens prefer new forms of participation and representation of their personal interests. Various civic activist groups inhabit the arena of civil society in Bulgaria and are visible, active and able to create an impact. This requires a specific commitment on behalf of CSOs to channel this civic energy and enhance commitment through higher visibility, credibility of actions and forms of mutual interaction between CSOs and citizens in the form of civil panels, volunteers’ weeks and civic education projects. This will also serve as a turning point in enhancing CSOs’ level of impact. Through reconnecting with citizens and gaining higher legitimacy and a clear-cut mandate from the citizens, CSOs will be better able to influence decision- and policy-making and to target their activities with a supply-demand approach, empowered by the respective constituencies and in response to citizens needs.
Citizens tend to get ‘encapsulated’ within their family circle and their closest family members, which serve as a sort of safety net, but limit any social contact outside that circle. This is coupled with low trust in representative institutions and fellow citizens. Low levels of engagement and trust in social processes indicate a sustained trend, as confirmed by the three editions of the “State of Society” report. Data from the last edition of the EVS show that 81.5% of citizens do not partake in the activities of any organisation.
However, a new trend in civic engagement deserves attention. Some types of informal activism seem to enjoy larger public support than the traditional CSOs. The new faces of civil society (activist groups, such as students and environmentalists) and the faces of the transition (such as pensioners) represent a significant percentage of the whole. Citizens refer to environmentalists, pensioners and students as the authentic representatives of civil society, and very often they conclude that there is no civil society in Bulgaria. It turns out that for citizens the centre of legitimacy lies not within certain organisations, but within various activist groups of citizens.
It can be surmised that environmentalists managed to identify the appropriate tools to attract attention and invoke civic engagement. Their initiatives are specific and are well-targeted at overdevelopment irregularities, necessary changes or conservation of resources. Green organisations also managed to employ virtually all possible means of communication. Blogs, online petitions, virtual membership in various initiatives, forums, online protests, subscriptions, demonstrations and initiatives organised via social networks form an integral part of the recent trends in civic engagement. Though they have been viewed as alternative means of individual engagement, these are now mainstream mechanisms to channel civic energy and mobilise civic engagement.
The role of civil society in environmental protection is regarded as significant by stakeholders (RSC Survey 2004). Only 22% of respondents define it as limited and just 11% are unable to give specific examples of projects in the field of the environment. In contrast to other CSO subtypes, environmental organisations have a strong public profile and well developed professional capacities. In comparison to other CSOs they operate more often in networks, coordinate their initiatives and maintain international contacts. They are well represented at the regional level, especially in the regions of Pleven, Stara Zagora and Kardzhali. However, there are no examples of mass environmental campaigns in the form of environmental protests or nationwide advocacy campaigns.
Environmental activities are of insignificant public interest. On a small scale, events are initiated among youths and small neighbourhood groups for cleaning or planting trees. Books and materials are issued by NGOs about recycling and water resources. However, most Bulgarians still favour economic interests over environmental ones. For example, there is predominant public support for the development of nuclear power. About 67% of the citizens voted at a referendum in favour of keeping units 3 and 4 of the Kozloduj Nuclear Power Plant, even if this might threaten the adoption of Bulgaria to the EU. Bulgarian citizens believe they will be paying higher electricity bills if small and outdated nuclear reactors are decommissioned. Environmental NGOs fail to provide convincing information and examples to prove the opposite and build a broader awareness of environmental issues. The main reason is that NGOs and their donors underestimate the interrelatedness of economic prosperity and a protected environment. Although well trained and active, environmental NGOs have not been able to match the strong impact of their colleagues in some other European countries. The Bulgarian people still suffer from too many social and economic problems to be able to pay enough attention to sustainable development. Only recently the need to develop environmental tourism and the potential for income generation through the sustainable use of natural resources is being promoted in Bulgaria.
This case study describes an initiative of community members in small village Crevarska strana in the municipality of Gvozd, an area of special state concern due to severe war damages in the nineties. A village was isolated from the nearest town Gvozd, and since inhabitants of the village do not have cars, they had to walk additional seven kilometers to the first bus station and get the bus to the town to work, school, administration offices. Joint community project initiated by local Citizens Advisory Council and supported by local authorities and international donors resolved the problem and a building action again connected village and city.
Low levels of civic engagement in communities and society constitute a weak foundation for civil society in Croatia. As the weakest dimension on the CSI “diamond”, active citizen participation and engagement remains a real area of concern. Membership in organisations is not growing. Meanwhile, formal volunteering levels are low, in part because volunteering is rarely regarded as a resource which could be used in public institutions, and in part because it does not tend to be seen as a civic virtue worth promoting vigorously. With the economic crisis set to push citizens ever closer to the survival line and preoccupy them further with dealing with their own immediate problems, the motivation to volunteer one’s time freely may be further undermined. Across local communities, as well as in the national public arena, one finds that those citizens who are active tend to come from the same pool of “usual suspects”.
According to the European Values Survey (EVS) 2008, 13.2% of citizens in Croatia are active members of at least one organisation of a political nature. Specifically, 6.6% of citizens belong to trade unions, 6.3% to political groups or parties, 2.5% to environment organisations, while 1.9% belong to professional associations.
The impact that civil society achieves is still questionable. External stakeholders perceive that civil society achieves only limited impact (categorised as responsiveness, social impact and policy impact). The policy impact of civil society is a rather new area of development in Croatia. Good practice introduced with the European Union’s open method of coordination, which is based on the involvement of different stakeholders in the process of drafting, delivery and implementation of policies and programmes, notable in the EU and Croatia Joint Inclusion Memorandum (JIM), has not yet spilt over into other policy areas. Where reforms are undertaken, they still usually derive from centres of power at the top. Public debates are still undeveloped and rarely institutionalised, while “cooperation” is often achieved through confrontation. Such circumstances and the absence of mechanisms perpetuate a situation in which civil society organisations are reactive, rather than proactive.
As a result, there are few notable examples of impact of civil society on policies and programmes. Policy and programme makers are not always responsive to social innovations and to examples of good practices offered by CSOs. A genuine partnership between state and civil society in delivering more complex and comprehensive programmes should be put on the public agenda, while there is also a need for better coordination and division of labour between state and civil society where partnership already exists. It should be noted that there is also a widespread belief that CSOs financed from the state budget are less critical of government in their work and limited in their influence on policies and programmes. Meanwhile, although business actors in Croatia have started to discuss the importance of corporate social responsibility, cooperation between business actors and civil society to implement projects aimed at serving the public good is still rare.
The Opinion on the application of Croatia for membership of the European Union, which the European Commission published in April 2004, stated that Croatia must invest significant and persistent efforts in order to adjust its legislation in the area of environmental protection to the legislation standards set by the European Union. Unlike the area of poverty reduction, CSOs play a widely recognized and crucial role in environmental protection. The best known example of efficient work of civil society in this field is the activism of ecological organizations around the oil pipeline project “Družba Adria”. They demonstrated that the general public, which is in general concerned with the conservation of Croatian natural resources, can be sensitized and mobilized around environmental issues.
CSOs’ activities regarding environmental protection were evaluated as either moderate or significant by stakeholders and two-thirds of stakeholders could recall a significant number of examples of campaigns to protect the environment. Stakeholders’ ability to name these types of campaigns is in part due to the significant media attention that environmental activities receive. Another factor is that environmental organizations attract a wider group of more influential citizens to their membership than the average CSO, and contributing to such initiatives has become a status issue for younger middle class Croatians. As there is still a rather limited number of CSOs actively promoting environmental protection, the NAG scored this indicator with a moderately strong 2.
Civil society in the Greek Cypriot community has to cope with control from political parties, and clientilistic relationships between political parties and citizens. The Greek Cypriots tend to think that almost everything has a political cause and that is the role of politicians to deal with almost all issues facing society. Political power, as exercised by the state and political parties, therefore assumes a hegemonic role, controlling not only the economy but also society at large, as is evident in education, the media, cultural production and volunteer organisations (mainly charities), and resulting in the underdevelopment of civil society.
The above conclusions agree with the ones of the 2005 CSI report, which states: “Civil society in the Greek Cypriot Community is of a very particular sort because advocacy, notions of citizenship and social tolerance are still in the process of developing in an island that was only granted independence in 1960, was shaken by inter- and intra-communal conflict, divided by a war, and is still trying to find ways of building a lasting peaceful future for all its inhabitants. The Republic of Cyprus was a polity that was not accepted at the beginning by the majority of its citizens and political parties took some time to take the complexion of parties as we know them in Western democracies. When they did they dominated the entire fabric of social life. Indeed the dominance of the political upon civil society, in particular, and the wider society in general is crucial for understanding the shape of the former.”
A disappointing 80.4% of the population does not belong to any social organisation. 14.0% are active members of at least one such organisation, whilst 5.6% are inactive members. When compared to CSI 2005, during which 43% were reported to be members of at least one CSO, then membership would seem to be reducing fast. On the other hand, during interviews and consultations, civil society experts felt that there was not a significant reduction in membership, although they agree that in the last few years, it had become more difficult for CSOs to attract active members.
When asked whether people volunteer for at least one social organisation, 87.5% answered negatively; only 12.5% stated they were active. In 2005, 51% of respondents reported that they assisted an organisation or provided community support, while only 7% assisted voluntarily. Despite the apparent positive increase, voluntary assistance to social organisations remains low and creates serious problems to the efficient operation of many organisations.
5.3% of volunteers assist education groups, followed by sports associations (5.0%) and political parties (5.0%). Less favoured are religious or spiritual groups (4.6%), cultural groups or associations (4.4%) and health groups and social service associations (4.4%). The impact of the economic crisis on everyday life of Cypriots, the lack of free time, and changing priorities may explain why active membership and voluntarism are decreasing.
Community engagement was evaluated as a social activity related to family, relatives and friends and as a social activity related to civil society groups. A large number of the Greek Cypriot community engage in social activities related to family, relatives and friends, as 84.7% spend time with relatives. 76.5% spend time with friends weekly or nearly every week, while only 18.8% spend time with other people from sports clubs or voluntary organisations. More than half of the sample population (53.0%) said that they do not engage in social activities with other people at sports clubs or voluntary / service organisations at all; 18.8% engages weekly or nearly every week, 12.8% once or twice a month and 14.1% only a few times a year.
Environmental standards are a rather new idea and somewhat unknown in Cyprus. Despite the small numbers, it is felt that many more organisations practice some environmental actions such as recycling, water waste reduction and energy saving, without having formal written policies.
The main factor behind the low Civic Engagement score is the low extent of engagement, both social and political, which reflects the presence of a small group of individuals who are active in civil society. Overall, we find that 10.2% of respondents are active members of one or more social CSO and 11.7% are active members of one or more political CSO.
Family continues to be at the heart of social support mechanisms and we see a lack of interest in developing more formal, institutionalised support networks (such as for child care, care for the elderly and assistance for the disadvantaged). Historically, neighbours and fellow villagers contributed to this mechanism as well; however, following urbanisation, socio-economic development, and changes in lifestyles, alternative mechanisms and networks (such as civil society that provides social services) have still not developed. Compared with the 2005 CSI results, we even see a downward trend in levels of active membership. For instance, active membership in trade unions dropped from 17% to 6%, from 11% to 6% in cooperatives, and from 9% to 7% in sports clubs. The only increase we see is in active membership in human rights organisations, which rose from 2% to 4%, most likely as a direct result of the development of more vibrant advocacy CSOs, which have become more active with increased access to international funds in the post-Annan Plan period. Since membership in trade unions in particular is not expected to be fluid, the fall in membership in such organisations has been interpreted by the Advisory Committee as a reflection of a demographic shift due to an influx of immigrant workers, employed in the private sector, in many cases off the record.
A slightly larger portion of the population is choosing to participate in various collective actions as individuals, without associating themselves with any particular organisation. This explains the occurrence of mass demonstrations joined by tens of thousands of people - as much as a fifth of the population according to many estimates - despite low levels of participation in CSOs. This could be reflecting people’s lack of trust in CSOs or their unwillingness to make long-term commitments and investments in an organisation or a cause; rather, they are choosing to make one-time articulations of interest at critical turning points.
Our enquiries found that there is a moderate number of CSO actions dedicated to protecting the environment, evident both by the answers to the regional stakeholders’ survey and the references in the press during the monitoring period. A quarter of the surveyed stakeholders considered the role of civil society in protecting the environment as ‘significant’, while only 5% described it as ‘insignificant’. The majority (66%) describes it as ‘moderate’ or ‘limited’. When asked whether they could think of examples of civil society campaigns, actions or programmes dedicated to the protection of the environment, an overwhelming majority of 93% of the respondents could think of at least one example, while 54% of those could think of ‘several’.
The examples provided by the respondents included the following:
• The annual cleaning of the coasts organised by the Cyprus Marine Environment Protection Association (CYMEPA)
• The campaign of the Federation of Environmental and Ecological Organisations against genetically modified food.
• The campaign of the Federation of Environmental and Ecological Organisations against the creation of golf courses in the Paphos region.
• The protests organised by the Cyprus Green Party in collaboration with residents of the Akrotiri village aiming to remove the communications antennas installed in the area by the British military.
• The various protests by environmental CSOs and neighbourhood committees aiming to remove mobile telephony masts from residential areas that are thought to release radiation. There have also been some references in the three newspapers monitored during March, May and June 2005 to such actions by both environmental and other CSOs
• the protests by the residents of three villages (Sia, Mosfiloti and Alambra) in the broader Nicosia area about the erection of an Hellas Sat antenna in their area
• the organisation of an environmental and cultural festival by the Paphos Committee of Green and Cleanliness in collaboration with the elementary schools of Polis Chrysochous, in the Paphos district.
• the protest by environmental associations in collaboration with the local authorities and residents of Pomos village in the west of Cyprus, against the relocation of the village cemetery near a water dam that could result in the pollution of the drinking water in the future.
A majority (53%) of those polled in the regional stakeholder survey believe that civil society played a moderate or significant role in the protection of the environment.Many respondents referred to efforts to clean beaches, especially as it related to sea turtle hatcheries, including the Friends of Karpas Association. Mining, construction, and tree planting campaigns were also mentioned. The media review revealed that Environmental Day activities sponsored by KAYAD, as well as other environment related CSO activities did feature in the press. Most activities were informative seminars as opposed to protests.
Agora Central Europe (Agora CE) conducted a participatory project – involvement of citizens into decision making on communal level in the city of Klášterec nad Ohří. The project was based on Agora CE Seven steps model - preparing the project, setting the rules, motivating and involving citizens, choosing priorities – a first public meeting, drafting plans and preparing activities, decision making and implementation of action plans. The project proved people are willing to participate. It started the series of successful projects of Agora CE in the whole country.
The town of Klášterec nad Ohří expressed an interest in taking part in the first round of the project called ‘The Citizen and the Town Hall – Conflict or Partnership?'. First of all, the citizens were involved in the project by means of questionnaires distributed among all households in the town. In the questionnaires, they could express their standpoints on the key problems. At the same time, town hall clerks launched telephone interviewing, and this unusual form of polling the citizens turned out a great success. A total of 13 local government members and town hall employees were calling citizens selected at random four nights a week, asking them the questions already included in the questionnaires. In this way, the civil servants established close contacts with citizens, and relationships at the town hall improved as well. The outcomes of telephone interviews as well as newspaper version of the survey were assessed by students of sociology. Some 950 filled-in questionnaires of a total of 5,300 handouts returned to the town hall, which we perceive as an extraordinary success. Another 420 citizens of Klášterec were surveyed by means of telephone interviews, and the total number of 1,370 answers is a result town can be proud of. The involvement of local citizens is immense.
Within the next phase, a public meeting was held to introduce the outcome of the surveys. Again, the response was great, as more than 250 people turned up and the officials had to cope with a lack of tables in the room. At the public meeting, citizens commented on the most serious problems they were experiencing. The problems were ranked in order of their urgency, and working groups were set up to tackle the five most serious problems. The working groups were made up of citizens who expressed interest in working on the problems at the meeting. The problems chosen by the citizens concerned tidiness and safety, the premises of an old china factory, retail outlets and a supermarket, and traffic. Each working group held several sessions, attended by town hall employees. The groups also sometimes asked further experts to attend the sessions and provide their standpoints. Some sessions were rather excited, but all participants soon understood the chief objective – a search for a mutual solution.
The outcome of the work of all groups, the so-called action plans, were introduced to the public at a second public round-table meeting, held in May at the local community centre again. This second meeting was also very lively. This was the first time the action plans were presented, and it was interesting to watch the different reactions to some of the proposed solutions or measures, on the part of both citizens and local government members. Another opinion poll, designed to find out about the support for individual solutions among the Klášterec public, was held at the beginning of June. The results of the second survey – support for individual solutions – were presented to the local government at its extraordinary session on June 29. The local government acknowledged all action plans and, at the same time, ordered the Commission for the Municipal Development Strategy to include these solutions in the strategy. The local government approved the strategy in November.
There are thousands of CSOs in the Czech Republic. Apart from sports and recreational organisations with large memberships, there are also active and influential voluntary organisations that do not have significant membership. These are active, for example, in service provision to physically and mentally disabled or socially marginalised people, drug prevention, humanitarian aid, environmental protection, and consumer issues. Many of these organisations know how to bring marginalised issues onto the public agenda and how to effect positive social change, such as in the case of domestic violence or the care for terminally ill people.
15 to 30% of citizens were involved either as promoter, volunteer or organiser of various events in the municipality – such as social events, care for the environment, the protection of historical monuments, work with children, work brigades, sports events, cultural and educational establishments, and assistance to ill, old and socially weak citizens. Most people participated in work brigades in the municipality (30% of citizens). Fifty seven percent of citizens participated in at least one of these activities, which is a surprisingly high figure, given that we often hear arguments about the apathy of Czech citizens towards any collective activities.
Representatives of CSOs identified a particularly strong role for civil society in two specific fields: environmental protection and social service provision. Contrary to many other areas, such as human rights protection, anti-corruption initiatives, or unemployment, CSO representatives assessed both the activity and impact of CSOs working in these two fields very positively. Over the last decade, Czech environmentalists and ecologists have succeeded in becoming more than just nature conservationists. They have emerged as promoters of citizen rights and as monitors of public administration decisions and actions on environmental issues. CSOs working on social issues have managed to establish themselves as providers of much-needed social services.
Environmental conservation is the focus for large membership organisations, such as the Czech Union for Nature Conservation as well as advocacy organisations with less membership, but with a high media profile and many activities in environmental protection, such as the RAINBOW Coalition – Friends of the Earth Czech Republic, Arnika, Greenpeace. Many organisations concentrate on educational activities. Nature conservation is also part of the activities of special interest federations, such as hunters and anglers, and is inseparable from the spirit of the bushwhacker and tramping movements, which have a long tradition in the Czech Republic and belong to civil society as non-institutionalised movements.
Under the disguise of nature conservation concerns, a partial political opposition formed during the period of the communist regime. To this day such organisations address a wider circle of topics, above all the protection of democracy and the promotion of citizen participation in public decision-making processes. They also participate in administrative proceedings, consulting or criticising government plans. Overall, organisations concerned with nature conservation are amongst the most active in Czech civil society. The regional survey confirmed that the role of these organisations is amongst the most important. The significance of organisations active in the field of nature conservation is underlined by the fact that the population strongly trusts ecological associations on providing information regarding pollution of the environment. Among six types of institutions, (1) trade and industry, (2) ecological groups, (3) government ministries, (4) newspapers, (5) radio and television, and (6) independent research centres, people have most trust in independent research centres (87%) and ecological groups (74%) (Soukup 2001).
It appears that one of the most popular forms of citizen participation in Egyptian civil society is making charitable contributions, especially of a monetary or in-kind nature. Engagement in volunteer activities seems to be less popular, although it may have been underestimated in the research. Non-partisan political action has been quite weak in the past half century, however, there are signs that the situation is changing. The socio-political environment may have inhibited incentives for genuine voluntary participation in non-partisan political action, voluntary membership in CSOs and involvement in community action.
The CDS survey indicated that only a small percentage of respondents cited engagement in voluntary work during the past year (6.4%). This percentage is surprising, given that the majority of NGOs cited volunteers as the backbone of their organizations, responsible for the implementation of many of the activities. Moreover, the survey results may have underestimated the level of volunteerism because it only measured formal volunteering, due to the salience of certain social values influencing people's responses: respondents conceptualized volunteering as an activity that is undertaken at an institution or organization. If they are volunteering outside such a structure, for example, assisting neighbours or other community members in any way, it is likely that they would not have cited it as voluntary work. If the number of citizens engaged in “informal” volunteering were to be taken into account, it is likely that the percentage of Egyptians volunteering would be much higher than indicated in the survey.
It seems there is, for the most part, a positive correlation between occupation and volunteerism. The higher the occupation an individual holds, the more likely s/he is to be involved in volunteer activity. This is mirrored in the CDS survey which showed that 70% of volunteers occupied white collar professions, such as doctors, engineers, accountants in addition to businessmen. Civil servants represented 19.3% of volunteers, while street vendors, workers, and other groups represented a negligible percentage of those undertaking volunteer work. This raises the question of whether NGOs are exclusive organizations that do not encourage or actively seek the participation of individuals from working class backgrounds, or whether the preoccupation with ensuring livelihoods reduces the time available for volunteer work. In exploring the motives behind the involvement of individuals in NGO activism, the CDS survey also shed light on what drives volunteers. Interestingly, a variety of motives inspire volunteers. The most popular response (62.3%) was that volunteer work represents a religious duty. The second most popular response, which was cited almost as often, is the sense of personal satisfaction gained from undertaking such work (62.1%). Interestingly, 51.3% cited volunteering for acquiring social status and prestige.
A recent survey conducted by CDS (Philanthropy in Egypt, 2004) suggests that the scope of collective community action is somewhat limited. Only about a third of the sample respondents had met collectively to discuss a community matter in the past year and a slightly higher percentage (34.9%) had never attended a community event or participation in a community action during the past year. The survey may not have captured some of the more subtle forms of community action, such as neighbours meeting in the hallway sporadically to discuss what course of action to take regarding garbage disposal or water cuts. What the research revealed on the whole is the dearth of information that is available either on the form or extent of community action in Egypt. This is not to suggest that it does not exist, only that to this day, it has not been adequately documented for analysis.
Overall, the most distinguishable weaknesses within Egyptian civil society’s structure include weak formal citizen participation in CSOs and poor resources. Though the existence of CSO umbrella bodies is weak, where umbrella bodies do exist, they function effectively and have relatively strong internal self-regulation mechanism. Relatively strong cooperation among CSOs is also a strength which could be utilized to further develop the structure of Egyptian civil society.
The regional stakeholder survey suggested that there is a very high degree of awareness among civil society organizations of the concept of environmental sustainability. There are some examples of CSO activities aimed at promoting environmental sustainability, such as annual seminars undertaken by youth centres, and awareness-raising seminars on environmental protection held by NGOs as well as advocacy campaigns against environmental degradation. NGOs have been active in working with communities to help them improve their direct environmental conditions as well as advocating for their rights through legal and media means. Below are two examples of two NGOs, the first working on a grassroots level to improve the environmental conditions of poor, marginalized communities in Egypt, and the other working on a policy-making level, through advocacy, networking and community awareness raising efforts.
One good example of an NGO with a long history of working to improve the people’s environment is the Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE). APE is a nonprofit organization serving the communities of garbage collectors in Cairo, Hurghada, Tora and Wadi El Natruun in Egypt. Garbage collectors’ communities in Egypt live in a particularly difficult environment because in some areas, there is no separation between their garbage separation activities and their living quarters (i.e. garbage collected is dumped in their personal homes where women and children participate in sorting out the garbage). Living in such environmentally hazardous conditions has exposed garbage collectors and their families to serious health problems. APE sought to work in partnership with the garbage collectors’ communities, which have historically been marginalized and lived on the fringes. Through health interventions as well as the development and design of environmental projects specially addressing disposal and recycling of garbage, as well as a series of development interventions, APE has helped the community make its environment more liveable and safe.
A good example of an NGO that has worked on advocating for the rights of people, particularly the poor to a better environment is the Habi Centre for Environmental Rights. Habi was established in 2001 with the aim of defending the rights of the poor to a healthy and secure environment in which to live. Their work has primarily focused on advocacy, seeking to bring the environmental legislation in effect and have it respected, train NGOs on how to defend the right of the poor to a better environmental through the law, and initiating campaigns to raise the public’s awareness on environmental issues. Habi launched a campaign, in coordination with other NGOs, which lobbies the government to stop allowing the use of the harmful chemical asbestos in the construction industry. Their efforts culminated in increased media coverage of the issue and helped bring about government revision of its policy vis-à-vis allowing factories to use asbestos. While CSOs working to promote environmental sustainability are still in the minority, they are likely to be increasing in the future as development organizations’ awareness of the environment increases and as human rights organizations become increasingly aware of the link between human rights violations and environmental degradation.
By the year 1999 Estonia had developed expectancy for cleaving a society as a whole:
1. As a result of economical ultra liberalism and concentration of the capital there emerged so called elite;
2. The historical memory of a nation was offended by the fact that economical elite and elite of the occupation where actually the same people;
3. There emerged an attitude “every man for himself ”;
4. Human resource was not taken as a capital;
5. In the society there was well developed syndrome of success with all the features of consumer society;
6. Social group that had the worst living conditions where families with children;
7. The values of the society were changing and unfortunately there was no place for children and family as re-creators of the society.
Under these conditions was founded NGO Civil Courage and Pärnu Women's Roundtable. The essence of this cooperation was:
1. To draw attention to the indications of unbalanced society and the hazardousness of it;
2. To bring out the most acute problems in the society;
3. To find solutions hand in hand with legislators to balance the society.
For Estonia, the past fifteen years have brought remarkable changes in the social, political and economic structures of the country. After being a subjugated province of the totalitarian USSR for over fifty years, the country re-established its independence in 1991 and has made much progress in the consolidation of its democratic political system. This development was made possible, in part, by the crises of the Soviet economic, political and military systems. Nevertheless, the final course of the revolutionary process in Estonia was, to a large extent determined by the activities of popular movements. Estonia’s recent history is thus a convincing example of the potential importance of civil society and social movements in directing social change (e.g., Lagerspetz 1996:42; 52). Civil society’s ability to mobilise people for revolutionary action gives no guarantee, however, of its capacity to participate in the process of building and consolidating new democratic institutions. In other words, critical collective action – in this case a revolution – and the creation of a new social, political and economic order are tasks requiring different resources and abilities. Not unlike the developments in several other post-communist and post-authoritarian countries, newly independent Estonia experienced a rapid institutionalisation of political democracy and capitalism along with a demobilisation of social movements in the early 1990s (Lomax 1997:41).
Although there are many facets to civil society, this report focuses on the non-profit sector as its central component. The comparison of Estonian civil society with those of established democracies contained in this report draws an unexpected conclusion: In spite of civil society’s important role in the recent past, it currently forms the weakest link in the Estonian democracy. This is not so much caused by the number or diversity of the existing organisations – in comparison with most of Central and Eastern Europe Estonia has a very high number of civil society organisations (CSOs) per capita – but by their insufficient resources and reluctance to participate in the development of Estonian society.
It seems that neither the general public, nor the state or CSOs themselves possess a clear vision about the role of the sector. According to the findings of a recent research project on mutual expectations of politicians, civil servants, businesspeople and non-governmental organisations (Lagerspetz, Ruutsoo & Rikmann, 2001), the Estonian non-profit sector is seen to perform three major roles:
• organising free time activities
• delivering services contracted out by the state, and
• consulting political decision-makers.
Their rather limited fields of activity focus on culture, sport, charity, the rights of marginalised groups and the promotion of economic interests. Importantly, CSOs do not consider the delivery of state services as one of their primary roles, believing that their most important function in society is to publicise the opinions of social groups and inform the public (MSI 1999a). The non-profit sector as a whole does not constitute an influential actor in the democratic development of Estonian society (Lagerspetz, Ruutsoo & Rikmann, 2001). The government has not created a space for CSOs in political decision-making and politicians and civil servants lack an understanding of the newly-emerged non-profit sector, since most CSOs have no clearly defined management structure, and lack advanced leadership and organisational skills (NENO 2000). However, there are indications that attitudes towards civil society are beginning to transform. The formation of a Chamber of Co-operation between political parties and CSOs in Estonia in December 1999 represents one potentially important step. A UN–funded project involving an umbrella of Estonian NGOs has been involved in preparing a draft document called the Estonian Civil Society Development Concept (EKAK), which eventually will form the basis for an official document to be adopted by the Estonian Parliament. EKAK intends to create a framework of values, principles and mutual obligations related to the relationship between public authorities and the non-profit sector. The document was handed over to the Parliament on 23rd of April 2001.
A small minority of citizens are engaged (as members and volunteers) in one or more CSOs. The involvement of citizens in CSOs is small: 14.9% in social organisations, and 25.4% in politically-oriented organisations. Membership in civic organisations (associations of citizens) in 2010 is 24.7% and there were no significant changes in the course of the last five years. In the political sphere, parties are the most common vehicles for citizens’ membership, while the most social active membership are based in churches and religious communities, with trade unions and associations of citizens at a similar level. Volunteering in CSOs has lower rates; under one fifth of citizens volunteer in at least one organisation, but hardly any volunteer for more than one. Citizens volunteer up to 10 hours per year, which implies that the volunteer activities are mostly once off or one day engagements. Not having continuity in volunteer activities can indicate that citizens have not made these activities a habit and do not have the motivation to do something more (outside the family and personally) for the community and their compatriots.
Citizens participate more in informal activities than those which involve an organisation. Citizens participate in activities to advance common interest, and activities of a social and recreational nature are higher than participation in formal CSO activities. The opportunity to socialise is the most dominant motive for involvement of citizens in CSOs and results in higher levels of engagement in activities with other people. Half of the citizens (49.4%) participated in at least one act of individual activism. Of this group, 38.8% participated in a peaceful protest/rally, 28.1% signed a petition, and at least 14.3% participated in a boycott. According to our other regularly gathered data, engagement in political non-partisan activities saw a moderate decrease after 2004, while the potential for participation increased (those that have not participated so far, but stated that they would).
Citizens prefer to participate occasionally in activities for the attainment of common interests. Citizens are not consistent in volunteering; they volunteer up to 10 hours per year. Moreover, their involvement in one-off activities is higher than in organisationally-led and presumably more systematic ones. This ad-hoc engagement in one-off events does not necessarily lead to sustained follow-up actions than entail an affiliation with an organisation.
Responsibility for environmental protection is both moral and legal, and concerns citizens individually, as well as civil society as a whole. This sub-dimension scored 40.5%. Attitudes to the environment are assessed according to a single indicator: the existence within organisations of publicly available policies for environmental standards. A small number of organisations (40.5%) have such policies, but there is an awareness of the need for increasingly practising such standards, with 88% of organisations answering that they would introduce such standards in the future. These results obtained on the issue of environment were better than the views of citizens, as captured in an MCIC research study, ‘The Social Responsibility of Citizens’. According to this research, only one in five citizens (21.3%) feels the responsibility for environmental protection. They supported the standards and measures for environment protection, but also had great expectations from the government in this sphere (Klekovski, S. et al., 2009).
Civil society is an important factor in environmental protection. It is confirmed by the regional stakeholder consultations: 20% of the participants feel that its role is significant, while 37% feel that its role is moderate and 26% feel that it is limited. 86% of the subjects interviewed were able to name a particular example of an activity for environmental protection. The examples most often mentioned are: One Car Less, We Do Not Have a Spare Planet, campaigns for protection of the Ohrid Lake and the Dojran Lake, campaigns for closing up/dislocating the Smelting Factory and reducing the pollution of Veles. These campaigns are organised by DEM, the ecological association Vila Zora, OHO and the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning.
The environmental organisations are among the first organisations that had access to international organisations and foundations, which also provided larger experience in influencing the public policy. Thus, in the 90s, the Environmental Movement of Macedonia, together with other organisations, managed to succeed in its efforts to establish the Ministry of Environment (as an independent Government body) in 1998, contributed for the adoption of the Law on Environment and Protection and Nature Promotion, known as the Eco- Constitution (adopted by consensus) and the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP). It is also important to mention the Veles case where, in the past 15 years, the environmental organisations, especially the local organisation “Vila Zora”, were continuously working on raising public awareness with the citizens and the state for the issue of the pollution caused by the Smelting Factory.
At present, the activities in the field of environment have two directions. One part is carried out at national level and includes activities for strengthening public awareness – campaigns, lobbying for legislative solutions, for respecting and implementing the Aarhus Convention (access to information and justice), etc. The other part, on the other hand, is carried out at a local level and includes different specific environmental actions, alarming and lobbying in cases of endangering the environment, etc.
This case study describes citizen participation initiatives in small provincial towns Ambrolauri and Ozurgeti, Georgia, which were carried out in last week of September, 2005. In each town fund raising concerts with the participation of kindergarten and secondary school children were organized. In both cases necessary funds were raised, which was a result of active cooperation among local population, local government, local businessmen and NGO representatives. In both Ozurgeti and Ambrolauri collected sum was used for the construction of playgrounds for town’s kindergartens. Furthermore, citizens saw on practical example that they have the capacity to solve their community problem themselves without outside help.
This case study describes citizen participation initiatives in small provincial towns Ambrolauri and Ozurgeti, Georgia. We chose this particular case to demonstrate how simple, small-scale event can have a long-term positive effect and inspire people for future actions. Ambrolauri is a tiny town with population only 2545 people located in mountainous region Racha- Lechkhumi. Population is very poor, employment situation is striking. The town and the region have been left beyond attention of international organizations. Population is not publicly active. Ozurgeti is administrative center of Guria region with population 27 528. Guria region is also rich with mountains, agricultural lands are few, and unemployment is a problem. However, unlike Ambrolauri, Ozurgeti has comparably strong civil society; many local NGOs are very active and successful in attracting financial investments and collaborating with local government and donors.
Overall social and economic situation in rural areas of Georgia is harsh. Unemployment rate is very high and no new jobs are created; there are no opportunities to receive higher education, there is no entertainment for young people. Due to these problems population (especially youth) from all over the country migrates to the capital. Those who remain, look up to government to solve their problems and ease their hardship. Political events of November 2003 in Georgia, when as the result of “Rose Revolution” Shevardnadze’s government was replaced, was highest form of expression of people’s will and involvement in political life. However, this level of citizen participation has not been maintained in the following years. On day-to-day basis Georgian citizens are passive in their public lives, awaiting cardinal reforms from above. It is clear that even after the change of government, society still does not see its role in the development processes that are taking place in the country.
As long as an ordinary person in Georgia does not think of himself as a full-fledged citizen who can
influence and direct decision-making in his country, democratic processes in Georgia would move at a very slow pace. In this environment, assisting population in rural areas to acquire the knowledge and skills required to promote change and participate actively in public life of their communities, becomes very important. Many national and international organizations have taken steps to increase citizen participation level in Georgia. Some efforts had positive results such as mobilizing communities around village problems, establishing collaboration practices between local government and local population by financing infrastructure projects etc. Unfortunately, very few of these results are sustainable in long-term perspective. It is crucial to change citizen physiology, to make them believe in their own strength and abilities. From this point of view, the case described here is a unique demonstration of the fact that community often has abilities and resources for the solution of its local problems.
Civil society, particularly CSOs, has been considerably weakened since the 2003 Rose Revolution, as local and international actors have shifted their attention mainly towards the support of government policies. Policies recently implemented in Georgia have set back the transition towards democratisation considerably. According to a considerable number of indicators, the situation in the country has continuously worsened since 2000. The situation is aggravated by the government’s refusal to initiate a dynamic dialogue with civil society. In such an environment, Georgian civil society has degraded to the position it occupied 10 to 12 years ago, which must force this sector to think of new developmental possibilities. CSOs, because of their conformist views and low impact upon the processes within Georgia, have failed to avoid the processes described above and, thus, they have to rethink and recreate their role within society at large.
Now, because society increasingly shows discontent towards the policies of the government, new prerequisites are being created for CSOs to play a more active role. CSOs have some advantage in this respect; despite a number of weaknesses, they still form an organised power, and in the case of particular policies, they can increase their authority and influence within society, as well as over the government. Furthermore, civil society ought to pay greater attention to the social problems Georgia faces, as well as to the spreading of democratic values. An additional stimulus comes from international organisations, including donor organisations, the policies of which shift their focus towards the issue of democratic values.
Civic engagement, especially CSO volunteering activities, is noticeably low in Georgia on a formal level. Even more worrying is the apparent trend toward a decrease in volunteering, rather than an increase. This tendency is particularly evident with regard to socially-based engagement. CSOs are well aware of the problem, and it remains one of their prime concerns.
Citizen participation in general, and socially-based engagement in particular, is far from active in Georgia. According to the NWPs, one explanation for this may be that difficult economic and social circumstances, including high levels of unemployment, drastic worsening of living conditions, and largely unstable social, political and economic environments, along with the neglect of the interests of wider society by government, have marginalised large segments of society and prevented the emergence of organised groups and the implementation of institutionalised activities. The current political situation in Georgia offers another serious stumbling block to increased civic engagement. Euphoria and enthusiasm witnessed during the 2003 Rose Revolution gradually faded away in the post-revolution period, giving way to widespread public frustration and disillusionment. As a result, civic participation has fallen in the country from some 10% in 2006 to 8.8% at present (VGS 2006; WVS 2009).
In contrast to institutionalised activities, community participation, which is not institutionalised as a rule, is higher in Georgia, at 7.1% (WVS 2009). This can be seen as a reflection of the fact that public confidence in formal structures has never been high in Georgia. In a country where official structures have always been treated with a fair dose of mistrust, it is mainly the neighbourhood and community groups and other similar informal associations, such as within groups of friends, which traditionally enjoy high levels of public confidence and thus have higher levels of civic participation.
Widespread poverty was cited as the main challenge by 87.9% of people surveyed (WVS 2009). Other problems (only 12.1% together) are rated as much less serious in comparison with poverty: environmental pollution - 31.0%, inadequate quality of education - 27.8%, and substandard health care services - 26.7%. On this basis, environmental pollution is considered as the second biggest problem in Georgia for the purpose of this research (WVS 2009). Regarding environmental pollution, 36.1% of respondents stated that CSOs had no influence on policies, 38.1% that they had very limited influence, and 9.3% of the respondents believed CSOs were in a position to exert strong influence on these policies.
The analysis of the structure of civil society reveals a low degree of citizen involvement in civil society activities. The majority of Greeks do not participate in non-partisan political activities, nor do they engage in any voluntary work (with the exception of the Olympic Games). Most Greek CSOs, with the exception of sporting and labour associations, are unable to attract members. The depth of citizen commitment is not at all encouraging in terms of the amount of time and investment the average individual is prepared to make. Certain groups, such as the poor, uneducated or illiterate and socially marginalised, are neither well represented nor involved in civil society. Young people are less engaged with civil society activities than would be expected. The geographical distribution of CSOs is quite uneven and there is a markedly urban character of these organisations. The lack of a ‘civil society arena’ where a common agenda could be formed, as well as the absence of effective umbrella bodies and the low organisational capacities and financial resources (with the exception of some organisations, such as those belonging to the environmental movement that seem to have attracted the state’s interest and some financial support) raise important concerns.
Although sustainable development is an urgent need for today’s society, comparing Greek environmentalism with corresponding western European cases, one witnesses a quasi-movement rather than a well-established and deep-rooted green movement (Demertzis, 1995). Mass involvement, as well as durable support and attractiveness, are the fundamental but missing elements for the development of an environmental social movement in Greece. This may also be related to the lack of environmental consciousness in the country (Demertzis, 1995). A 1998 survey conducted by EKKE noted that the great majority of environmental organisations were founded during the last two decades (Tsakiris & Sakellaropoulos, 1998). Moreover, 57% of them have maintained regular cooperation with the mass media in order to inform the public. According to the same source, less than 10% were involved in environmental seminars in schools, but many were accepting invitations to inform students.
Prominent roles among these organisations were played by the local chapters of international environmental NGOs, such as Greenpeace, WWF and a few Greek associations, such as the Hellenic Ornithological Society –Birdlife Greece, Nea Ecologia – Friend of Earth Greece Botetzagias 2000). Examples include:
• The development of a mechanism for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in the trans-boundary Prespa Park (in nortwestern Greece), which is indispensable for the integrated protection and sustainable development of the protected area and
• The National Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (EKPAA), established in 2000 which aims to improve reporting on environmental issues and raise awareness on sustainable development issues, focused on the national level.
With regards to the membership of environmental organisations, a survey by Kousis & Dimopoulou (2000) has noted an increase in numbers, especially since 1992, although in many cases the members did not exceed 500 people. An important characteristic of the members of environmental organisations was their high educational level. Almost half of the members held a university degree and more than half of them were working in scientific sectors and/or were self-employed.
However, one cannot say that Greek Society as a whole has become more sensitive to environmental issues owing to civil society activities which aim to protect the environment. It is notable that only 33% of Greeks credit environmental CSOs with solving environmental problems (Eurobaromenter 58.0, The attitudes of Greeks towards the environment, December 2002).
The case study was prepared in the surroundings of Pecs, a city in the Southern-Transdanubian region of Hungary. It shows how could a local crisis link local people and transform them into a real, strong and well prepared community. The Istenkút study is not a success story related to the people’s original objectives, but new perspectives came out during the process, with various innovative and creative initiations.
The area structurally consists of independent and separate vicinities formed in accordance with geographical endowments. Vicinity relationships along the ways in the valleys and on the mountain ridges built in with houses and leading into forests are similar to the relationships in one-way villages having only one street. It is inevitable to have intensive interpersonal relationships and do habitual favours to each other because of
– the lack of infrastructure (no running water pipes, no drainage, roads are unsuitable for traffic),
– huge distance from city offices, services, institutions,
– the situation of the area which is less protected than areas in town and being more exposed to nature's forces.
The school founded in the natural centre of the area in 1925 was the only institution of the local community, the focus of wider community relationships, and catalyst of communication between geographically separate vicinities. Beside its educational function this was the only local institution related to the local community. In its story the inhabitants' willingness to participate in public affairs was expressed. The local power (the town of Pécs) was related to the community in Istenkút via this institution. The written history of the district started right with the foundation of the school, people got acquainted with each other at the school as a result of which the narrower vicinity relations could expand and a wider civil network was formed. The last golden era of the school memorable for the local community started from the mid-seventies, when a new wing was built to the school building, the school leaders were initiative, innovative and communal in their thinking. The first General Culture Centre of the country was brought about here when the school, the nursery school and the culture centre were joined. In accordance with former traditions, the occupants contributed to this development with very significant voluntary work – it was acknowledged by the city leaders of those days in an official certificate.
The outcomes of the political transition of 1989 reached Istenkút in 1995 on the level of the community experience. Up to that time a great number of working places had been closed down, which restricted people's activity to the range of their private problems. However, the planned closure of the local school awoke latent solidarity. (It was noticeable that people's protest against the planned closure of local schools were remarkably more organised throughout Hungary than the protests against discharges.) Local people of Istenkút reacted very combatively on hearing the intention of the City Government to close down the school. They used, tried and learned all the democratic means to represent and enforce their own interests, and in this fight they managed to make use of all the strategic and procedural mistakes the City Government made. The closure of the school violated children's rights, and overburdened the families. First of all large families with 3 or more children suffered from the preclusive measures – no wonder that the leaders of the movement were from these families.
After the loss of the school all the community resources remained concentrated in Istenkút Community Association founded in 1997: moral, professional and social capital accumulated during the struggle, a strong feeling of responsibility for the area's future. Due to a professionally well-established project the organization was able to raise external funds from sponsors other than the City Government which refused to finance local public aims, and they were able to build up again community feeling on the ruins of community life. With regard to the results four factors, four intervening points are to be stressed:
– making new publicity (Istenkút Newsletter),
– making the community identity stronger through its hidden symbols, values and the enforcement of its common affairs,
– reinterpretation of its relationship with the City Government (not only citizens' rights but procedures of the local power's operation was to be learnt)
– granting the continuity of the organized local activities.
Apart from these we have to emphasize the role of the external partners' financial support and professional assistance, the permanent presence of Istenkút community in the local media through numerous events, actions and programmes, and the role of the City Government providing a place for the community's activities.
Upper Kiskunsag and Dunamellek is one of the most disadvantaged regions of Hungary. It is only 50 miles south of Budapest but experiences a range of rural problems. The area covers 500 square miles. The population is 32,000 and there are 10 villages. Community development work was undertaken in five communities, a town and four villages. Kunbabony is a hamlet with 300 inhabitants. Development work started in Kunbabony because the Civil College, the training centre of the Hungarian Association for Community Development, is situated there.
The results of initial contact-making and information gathering confirmed the extent of the problems being experienced by the community:
· Unemployment, lack of economic potential, poor education, isolation of young people
· Weak infrastructure and institutions
· Low land value and agricultural experience obtained in earlier state cooperatives and big farms
· Lack of a sense of community with very few voluntary or community organisations
· Paternalistic style of the local authorities: no awareness of the concept of development and no leaders to take initiatives.
At the moment in Hungary the culture of participatory democracy is still not widely accepted after the communist regime. Central government plays a very important role in influencing regional policies (Bulla and Zseni, 2004).
Hungarian rural territories face structural changes in agriculture; lack of jobs; decreasing offer of public services, cultural and social activities; ageing populations and migration of younger people to cities. The statements of local actors in Hungary proved that issues like not letting citizens to participate and citizens not wanting to participate in regional development activities are “Hungarian characteristics” – resulting of (and still left behind by) the 40 years of dictatorship.
In the Hungarian case there was no common model of SD initiatives recognisable. As there is no co-ordination either at the national or at the regional level, communities and small regions that start an LA21 (or similar) process follow their own understanding on SD, or the understanding of their external professional advisor.
The external facilitators or advisers come from different backgrounds in Hungary (NGOs, research and educational institutions, private consultants) and have different understanding of local sustainability. This is why we have met different ways to proceed towards sustainability. For example, only a very limited numbers of “real processes” (really activating local people for dialogue and common action) could be identified among the evaluated Hungarian cases. In five of the eight rural communities we could not observe any development process going on: either in heads of local decision makers nor in heads of local people. In contrary, external experts prepared and delivered a plan for sustainability (after collecting individual ideas of citizens on the future of the community - but without starting a dialogue with them); or it was about running a few projects with a sustainability focus – but without integrating those into the “mainstream” development activities of the community. These types of sustainability initiatives did not consist of either citizen participation or some kind of a sustainability-commitment by the local government.
The decade since the Rio Earth Summit has seen a significant development in Israel of organizations for social change in general, and of the environmental movement in particular. Whereas, in the early 1990s, the number of Israeli environmental organizations could be counted on one hand, currently over one hundred NGOs are active in Israel either on a national or a local level. These range from local action committees working on issues relating to their immediate environment, to community organizations and regional action networks, as well as national organizations dealing with development and environmental policy (relating to open spaces, water, air, transportation, the coastline). Interests also emerging are environmental education and development of environmental leadership. This rapid and massive development can be attributed to two factors: the rapid rise in population which began following the large immigration wave from the former Soviet Union and the development of Israeli civil society.
Many environmental organizations, particularly the local ones, arose as a reaction to destructive development enterprises, eradication of open spaces and coastal areas, air, water and land pollution, and the environmental discrimination of groups and sectors far from the society's centres of power. In their day-to-day work, these organizations are trying to promote sustainable agendas and solutions to Israeli society growing needs.
In contrast to the democratic development and vibrant dynamism among social and environmental NGOs, it seems that the Israeli government does not view these organizations as allies for sustainable development. Contrary to its commitments in Agenda 21, the government does not encourage or coordinate dialogue between NGOs and government authorities in order to make intelligent use of the former's knowledge and capabilities. Moreover, the government creates obstacles to transparency of information, and the limitations of the existing planning process impede access to justice. Worst of all, various Israeli governments have enacted legislation which reduces the ability of the public and of civil organizations to exercise influence and to be a part of policy-making. Again, these actions are in flagrant contradiction of the Israeli Government's commitment to promoting legislation to assist NGOs participation in these processes.
The Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED) has effectively addressed the need for greater transparency and public participation in planning through specific legal interventions. In 2001, for example, IUED petitioned Israel's High Court demanding that the Jewish National Fund adhere to open planning procedures in preparing its forestry activities, which have an enormous influence on the future of open spaces in Israel. Historically, the JNF has bypassed the normal planning process, basing its large-scale forestry activities on very general plans that have been approved by a closed government committee. The result has been that the public has had no opportunity to review forestry plans that, in many cases, have caused severe damage to the environment. The High Court's ruling declared that the JNF must cease functioning as “a state within a state,” and must submit its forestry plans to the official planning committees for approval.
The Sustainable Jerusalem Coalition now has 45 member groups from all sectors of Jerusalem's multi-ethnic and socio-economically diverse public. Sustainable Jerusalem has its own civic and environmental vision, formulated by its member groups. The members of this coalition work together, both in opposing environmentally harmful planning development projects, and in creating sustainable planning guidelines for the future. In order to do this, Sustainable Jerusalem employs its own team of planners, for whom the residents of the city are the clients. With Local Agenda 21 as its guiding light, thus far Sustainable Jerusalem has worked on an extra-municipal platform.
Ein Kerem Residents' Committee: The residents of Ein Kerem, the birthplace of John the Baptist near Jerusalem, have prepared an alternative masterplan for the village's entire landscape basin, out of a desire to preserve the landscape, the environment and the site's historical and religious value. The plan is an attempt to prevent uncontrolled development.
SPNI's Tel-Aviv Center for Environmental Action coordinates the Green Forum, a coalition of 35 Tel-Aviv neighborhood organizations and environmental NGOs. The Green Forum has become a member of the municipality's public participation task force, which itself was initiated as a result of extensive lobbying by the Forum. The Forum's publication of an annual report of council voting records on environmental issues has increased the councillors' accountability and commitment to those issues. The Center's submission of a detailed alternative plan for a significant part of Tel-Aviv's coastline has led to a shift in the usual balance between the public and the municipality, strengthening the public's right to determine the area's future.
Besides their contribution to the strengthening of the movements for social change and the environment, these activities have led to a certain change in attitude among Israel's decision-makers. Thus, various government ministries (mainly in the planning field) are beginning to seek mechanisms and procedures for NGO and public participation.
Of the population survey respondents, 36.5% are active members of a social organisation such as a mosque, church, religious organisation, sporting, recreational, arts, music or educational, humanitarian or charitable organisations. Also, 19.7% of respondents said that they do voluntary work for at least one social organisation, while 27.9% of respondents engage in social activities in sports, voluntary or service-based organisations several times a year.
The Civic Engagement dimension of the CSI study revealed low scores and many limitations. Membership in CSOs is low, and the overall levels of formal volunteering are limited. While engagement in community activities is relatively diversified and while socially based engagement scores relatively highly, the main concern in terms of civic engagement in Kazakhstan is the very low level of political engagement.
The low rate of organisations with environmental policies, in addition to the question of implementation which was not explored by this sub-dimension, suggests that there are significant challenges ahead for Kazakh CSOs in their efforts to keep to environmental standards.
The CSI analysis of civic engagement in Kazakhstan raises concerns over the limited extent of citizen participation. Within this limited participation, however, the social life of the country is characterised by greater depth and diversity. Civic engagement in Kazakhstan seems to be characterised by less extensive engagement that is more social than political in nature. Eliminating an apparent general apathy among the population towards volunteering will be important for further developing civil society.
Civic Engagement, after the Perception of Impact, was the second weakest dimension of Kosovo civil society. The low membership in socially based and political initiatives, as well as similar levels of volunteering in both of these fields characterise Kosovar society as a highly indifferent one with high level of apathy of citizens towards public life in general. However, higher levels of non-formal and individual activism, such as community engagement and participation in various individual political actions, indicate that the potential is present and needs to be activated by CSOs and other stakeholders. This confirms the perceptions of a gap between CSOs and citizens, which is also reflected in the level of trust towards CSOs and political parties shown in the Population Survey. Last, a non-distinction among different social and demographic groups regarding to their activism shows a highly diverse group of active citizens and a low existence of barriers between different groups both in socially and politically based engagement, albeit not taking into account inter-ethnic distinction. As civil society's main strength focuses on the active participation of citizens to advance shared interest and create links, this low level of civic engagement is one of the most important issues to be addressed by Kosovar civil society.
There are very few available data on specifically environmentally-focused groups in Kosovo. A Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Environment and a number of environmental NGOs was signed in 2009, but no signs of its implementation have been identified until now. The environmental movement in Kosovo, if there exists one, remains limited to a very limited number of CSOs and individuals.
During the Russian occupation the sphere of civil society was strictly regulated. The existing organizations were installed and controlled by the authorities. As a result the public space, defined as the “citizens' private activities and networks”, developed outside the state's domain. Families, friends and networks placed themselves outside of the realm and often in opposition to the socialist state.“ Accordingly, certain abilities and freedoms to live parallel to the political structures define the civil society in these days. This 'parallel society', as such, was rooted in an 'anti-political' approach to the system in place and was driven by an 'us-versus-them' attitude, where civil society took the higher moral ground.” In 2004, a study on the development of civil society in Latvia pointed out that specific leaders are very important for the organized civil society. Furthermore, “the existence of activities depends on having a leader”. These leaders take the initiative. They have the power of persuasion and are highly involved in public issues. This need for somebody who makes the first step has not change much till 2007. In a focus group discussion on political culture the representatives' of all social classes still see the “necessity to have a leader to lead the society.” This attitudes leads to one of the main problems the society has to deal with until today, the negative view towards the functioning of democracy. The other main issue, which will be described in a short excursus, is the exclusion of the big group of Russian speaking non-citizens in the Latvian society.
In Latvia emerged until 2003 about 7.704 social organizations. The usual definition of NGOs is based on Voluntariness and the non-profit principles but until 2004 there was no precise definition and no criteria to outline NGOs in Latvia. In 2001 the active people were mostly involved (36%) in trade unions followed by sports clubs (21%), cultural societies (15%), local action groups (10%) and environmental movements (5%). In 2006 about 20% of all inhabitants were members of an organization including churches, religious organizations and political parties.
Alongside the formal ways of participation there is also a growing use of the so-called unconventional acts of participation. Since 1998 an increase of protest activity of dissatisfied groups can be noted. In May 2000 the farmer used an international meeting of the European Bank to call attention to their situation by organizing pickets in Riga and blocking two border stations. Due to the protest the officials in charge of agricultural policy were willing to talk. These negotiations have been partly successful for the farmers’. In the last years could also be stated that the Russian speaking minorities increased their activities by starting different street protest actions. In 2000 some Russian-speaking NGOs organized collective protests against the language policy implemented by the state. Another proof of the increasing use of unconventional acts of participation is the number of protest actions by minority representatives against the changes planned for the minority education system in 2004.
The obstacles on the way to more active participation of the civil society are not only the general attitude towards the functioning of democracy or the split of the society in two groups mentioned above. There are also more concrete problems blocking the road forwards to more citizens' participation. These obstacles can be subdivided in two groups: First the problems on the level of the individual. What detain people from taking part in the civil society actively? And second there are the difficulties NGOs have to deal with.
The most important reason is the economic situation: the level of income is low, especially for rural residents. People are busy making a living and do not have time to engage themselves for free. The research showed a general attitude that quite a lot “people do not believe that it is worth doing anything unless it brings a profit.” Furthermore they do not believe that they can achieve a success only with social commitment and without a lot of money. The economic crisis in January 2009 changed this attitude for a moment, because the general population was deeply hurt so that even clashes with police forces were no longer rejected.
A lack of information about NGOs was also identified in this study. However, the information gap is closing. In 2004 the number of people who know quite a lot or a great deal about NGOs doubled to 12% compared to 1998 and only 26% admit they know nothing about NGOs instead of 44%. Another main reason is the lack of education. Latvian` schools are not teaching to think critically and analytically. Mostly opinions are not formed by selected information out of different sources. The people still “prefer to listen to authority figures.” Furthermore the communication skills are poorly developed by most of the people. They form an opinion about somebody on stories they have heard but they “are afraid of approaching one another.” This comes in addition with personality traits like “inertia, unwillingness, close-mindedness, introversion, not wanting to admit that they have problems.” Other reasons are that they are afraid of being rejected and misunderstood and also the “fear of the unknown, laziness or a lack of initiative.” These attitudes were complemented by negative experiences. They may have tried to be socially active, but failed to improve something. This negative result let them think participation is only waste of and come to the conclusion „it's easier to be a bystander and to criticize others than to assume responsibility.“ This is also linked with the “inherited Soviet tendency to rely on others” and leads to the development of a “consumer mentality” by city inhabitants. Due to the history of the country there is a lack of tradition of being involved in NGOs. The generations who have experienced the Soviet occupation have bad memories about formal organizations and the younger people want to enjoy their freedom instead of dealing with bureaucracy.
As already mentioned, above NGOs in Latvia are rather weak in terms of membership and financial resources and capacities. Due to the lack of resources the administrative capacity of NGOs is also rather weak.
The Latvian Green Movement was founded 2004 by Janis Matulis and his colleagues, because of a disagreement about the activities in their former NGO “Friends of the Earth Latvia”, in which they had been members since 1989. They wanted to improve the level of professionalism and work more politically by doing campaigns instead of practical activities like “going into the forest for informal environmental education.” They are active in the western part of Latvia in Kurzeme (Kurzeme province). Besides that LaGM run three branch-offices in the eastern part of Latgale, which is in the border area with Russia, and they do also activities in Riga. The main fields of activities are coastal protection campaigns (“Save Latvian Dunes”), reshaping energy policy towards renewables and international networking (mainly with Sweden and Germany). They have around 90 members but only two full paid staff. For maintenance, campaigning and environmental education activities LaGM receives financial support mostly from international donors.
The LaGM managed to change the ranking system in the environment protection fund headed by the Minister of Environment. This is a special fund for environmental NGOs, but the criteria of the consultative council to rank the projects were not transparent. The consultative council consists of representatives from NGOs which select the projects in favour of each other and not because of the project quality. That is why the LaGM started a campaign to change the ranking system. They addressed the anti-corruption office and the minster himself to complain about these things. Due to that they changed the score system to a system where the consultative council can only make three decisions: support; not to support; partly support. The minister now just sees the general view of the council and needs to take a decision by his own. “The situation has improved.” They succeeded not only at the ministerial level, but also in raising awareness about the dunes on the level of the ordinary people. The “majority has started to understand that the dunes are something that we must save”, and in the dunes the situation has really improved, compared to 2007 when the campaign had started.
The involvement in voluntary associations in Lithuania shows that only 15% of the population consider themselves as members of associations, 11% are active members, but 3% have a position. In Lithuania respectively 23% respondents represent trade unions, 26% are members of sports clubs, and 28% are members of cultural, musical, dancing or theatre associations.
As people involved in voluntary associations are more interested in political and societal matters, they express it in more active political participation in different kind of activities, as well.
One of the indicators of stability of democracy – interpersonal trust is rather low in the Baltic States compared with states with longer experience of democracy. According to World Values Survey 1995-1997, people in Lithuania will rarely admit that “one can trust most people”, only 18% of the inhabitants do that).
One of the most stringent problems of the Moldovan society at the moment, especially of the rural society is the absence of the access to information or limited access to the public information. While the price of subscriptions to periodicals is very high for the majority of the village people, and the Radio and TV are at the disposal of the power, the population from the rural regions stays uninformed about different fields of general interest. And this way the rural people can be easily manipulated by those who have the monopoly on the informational market. The right to information is fundamental, and limiting it, or even enclosing it, is an infraction of the human rights.
Moldova has faced a number of challenges since its independence in 1991—including high rates of poverty and emigration, centralization of government power, weak national identity caught between Russia and Europe, and unresolved territorial issues surrounding Transnistria. Weak local government, personality-based politics, and dominance of government-affiliated media have left citizens with few opportunities to influence decision-making processes that affect their everyday lives.
The Moldova Citizen Participation Program (CPP) started in 2004. The project aims to expand citizen awareness, promote civic engagement, and encourage self-reliance, while improving living and social conditions throughout Moldova. IREX provides training, mentoring, and funding for citizen-initiated projects.
Community Projects are realized as citizens identify local problems, develop feasible solutions and prioritize and implement their desired solutions. If a community shows initiative and applies, IREX guides the community through a three-step process involving two Application Phases (2 months) followed by the Implementation Phase (4-6 months). CPP facilitates the process by which Community Initiative Groups (CIGs) identify solutions and implement sustainable community plans to achieve them. The Program facilitates meetings and Civic Education trainings.
* In Phase 1, beneficiaries participate in two CPP-facilitated community meetings where they prioritize community problems, identify a project to address the problem, elect a Community Initiative Group and learn how to prepare a Concept Paper. CPP beneficiaries then prepare and submit Concept Papers which describe the problem, proposed solution and anticipated impact of the project to a CPP Selection Committee. The Committee evaluates the applications based on the relevance of the project to the community’s identified problem, the project’s feasibility, and the community’s commitment (which is demonstrated through community contribution in the form of human and financial resources).
* If the Concept Paper is approved, the community initiative group enters the project development phase (Phase 2). In this phase, the CIG participates in three CPP-facilitated community meetings, where they learn how to develop an action plan for project implementation; they establish which approvals and agreements must be collected during the implementation phase; and they develop a plan to ensure the long-term sustainability of the project. This phase culminates in the submission of a final application. Should the project application receive approval from the Review Committee, the CIG is invited to sign a Sub-grant Agreement.
* Implementation is the third phase of CPP during which the CIGs or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) implements the project according to the plan they developed during the previous phases. Project implementation includes a series of four CPP-facilitated meetings, which are designed to assist communities in finding appropriate solutions to problems they encounter in project implementation.
CPP also strengthens the social sector by providing support to non-governmental organizations and community based organizations. This Civil Society Initiatives (CSI) provides NGOs and CBOs with resources to mitigate important social problems.
CPP trainings are meant to prepare the community members for efficient involvement in the program activities and organization of the community activities. This is the chance to find out about new project models, efficient citizen involvement activities, new managerial methods, original methods of success promotion. CPP trainings are very popular for the program beneficiaries because of the participatory characteristic, because are interesting organized and conducted and because a highly efficient in skills/ability development. Trainings are requested mostly by the beneficiaries, who want to develop their managerial carrier, who want to be competent in a highly competitive world, by the beneficiaries who have self development aspires. Most requested training topics are: Management and Leadership, Project Design, Efficient Communication and Presentation, Strategies for organizing and conducting Civic Activities, Advocacy, Project Implementation, and Conflict Management.
During 4 years (from August, 2005 till February, 2010) in the frame of the program were organized 1,141 training activities, attended by more than 16,700 community members. Participants learned how to develop a team, to identify and to solve community problems, to use presentation and communication techniques, to use the community resources, to use advocacy strategies, to deal with the implementation of projects, to reduce conflict consequences.
The level of citizen participation in CSO activities is low. Citizens give very little to charity, rarely volunteer and rarely participate in local community actions, which could help them coordinate their efforts to resolve some common problems. Bearing in mind the traditionalist trait in the Montenegrin society, citizens are focused on supporting their families and relatives, rather than supporting and engaging in associations. In addition, certain relevant social groups (such as the poor and rural people) are not involved in CSOs, which, in turn, are mainly concentrated in urban areas.
A 2001 study by SOCEN, “Political culture in Montenegro”, showed 29.6% of the citizens participating in “public gatherings, protests, demonstrations”, while 31.5% “signed petitions/demands for resolving some local or general problem”. The number of citizens signing the so-called “civic initiative” for the adoption of some new law/declaration by the Parliament of the Republic of Montenegro floats between 0.9% and 1.7% of the total voting age population.
In a 2003 research study by UNDP, the “Aspiration survey”, only 15% of the Montenegrin citizens answered positively the question: “Would you donate a portion of your income for the protection and improvement of the environment?”, marking this as “a major problem today”. 47% said they would, “if their living standards were satisfactory”, while 38% said they were not ready to contribute to this goal, as this was “government’s responsibility”. Montenegrin society is rather focused on traditional solidarity within extended families. People allocate significant amounts for their primary social groups.
The 2004 research by CRNVO sets the number of respondents being members of NGOs (which are only one type of CSOs) at 7.4%. According to the 2001 “World Value Survey”, 18% of the respondents volunteered in some organisation. SOCEN research indicates that 48.9% participated in some “environment protection volunteer action” and 48.7% took part in a “humanitarian action”. The secretary of the Red Cross recently said that “volunteer work is declining”, as people are preoccupied with their own problems. The conclusion is that in Montenegro, volunteer work is not valued as a civic virtue, and that in the future it will depend heavily on the economic situation and the development of a middle class. For the promotion of volunteer work, a small group of people who enjoy respect on the local level and who are able to initiate volunteer activities will be of paramount importance.
According to 2005 data gathered through local administrations, civic participation in the public debates or concerning proposals for new laws or local strategies hovered between 15 to 50 participants per debate. Information by the NGOs on civic participation in 2005 debates also shows relatively small numbers of participants. The NGO MOST, which led one participative process for drafting the national strategy for sustainable development, reported 20 to 40 participants in each public debate. There are no other empirical data or research studies to provide information for this indicator. People with somewhat longer experience in civil society development claim that, once citizens recognise their stake in issues at the local level, they are ready to participate. Citizens are generally more ready to attend community meetings than to develop individual contributions to the solution of local problems. On the local community level, it is difficult to assess civil society development. However it is clear that only a small minority of people have participated in collective community actions in the last year.
One of the biggest and most active subsectors within civil society are environmental NGOs. The biggest, most significant and most successful civil society action for the protection of the environment was the action for the river Tara (protected by UNESCO), which was supposed to be flooded, based on an international cross-border cooperation treaty, establishing a hydro-power plant Buk-Bijela. Great numbers of environmental NGOs, supported by almost all other active NGOs, media, as well as many environmental organisations and movements outside of Montenegro, initiated, lead and finally successfully accomplished an action titled “Hocu Taru, necu Baru” (I want Tara, not a pond). This action lasted several months, and 11,000 signatures were collected for the Declaration for the Protection of the Tara River. Representatives of the NGO Most defended the interests of citizens at a session in the Parliament of Montenegro. Declaration was adopted on 14 December 2004, and on 3 March 2005 the government decided to abandon this project and withdraw its signature from the memorandum.
Following a several-month action of the citizens of Tivat, the NGO European home and the Organisational Board for the Protection of the Environment, Personal Possessions and Human Rights, local offices in Kavac and Gradiošnica blocked the building of a regional sanitary waste disposal site Lovanja. They initiated the signing of a petition against this project, negotiated with the government and the Mayor of Kotor. The waste-disposal site was built, after all, in a project supported by the World Bank, when the court ruled that the land did not belong to the citizens who initially sued the government for it.
The harbour of Zelenika was blocked for 11 months by citizens who protested against a project to build warehouses inside the harbour for the transfer of cement loads, fearing environmental disaster. The project was initiated by a private company that bought a former state-owned company and announced the building of the warehouses. The citizens collected 9,000 signatures against the warehouses. Their filters would annually dispose of 200 tons of cement dust, warned the citizens of Zelenika. Professor Ivan Gržetic wrote a letter to the ministry, giving his expert evaluation of the warehouse maintenance, and warning that each loading and unloading of a 3,000 ton warehouse would send some 3 tons of cement floating into the air. Citizens reminded the Minister that they received no answer, despite the fact that they collected 9,000 signatures, and that the municipal parliament of Herceg Novi already made three decisions against the building.
Environmental protection is an important part of civil society sector, and certain organisations dealing with this issue have become very prominent. In this area, CSOs are becoming more and more significant in the eyes of the public as supported by the above examples, and increasingly they are viewed as key actors on the issue of environmental protection.
Podlaskie voivodship is situated in the north-east of Poland. Mostly it’s a rural region with a low income per person and very high degree of unemployment. Over 40% of all inhabitants of Podlaskie voivodship live in villages and most of them have many problems in their local communities. The project anticipates the participation of a group of women – village administrators and leaders of village communities, 2 women from each area of a number of villages. There are 28 persons participating in the project directly. Indirect beneficiaries of the project are inhabitants of fourteen villages from the district of Bialystok which makes several thousands of people.
The main objective of the project is both, the professional and social activation. The actions undertaken to achieve this objective: forming of interest groups, promoting organizational unity and the actions, which may help build up social capital of particular local community. In the future, local communities with high social capital will find easier to solve problems of various kinds.
The innovative elements of the project are the methodical integrated approach to the problem, which is the complexity of functions and activities that are performed by female village administrators. Additionally, the idea of voluntary work – as a supportive action, a way to take care of dependant persons, will be popularized. Another innovate element of this project is an individual approach to each beneficiary – the Individual Action Plans will be created; support for their realization will be delivered. Within the frame of the project we intend to work on the participants’ motivation, activism and change of mentality (in case of both men and women). The motivation will increase, provided every woman receives psychological and substantial support. The project will accept two women from each village (neighbour tandem). The justification for such pair system is mutual motivation for action and support in case of obstacles and limitations. Creation of such teams is another innovative element of the project.
In 2004, 18.3% of adult Poles claimed they had dedicated time (without charging) to NGOs, groups, associations, or social or religious movements during the previous year. This means an increase by 8.3% in relation to 2001. The biggest increase in the level of volunteering was observed between October 2002 and June 2003. Since then, the tendency has continued, even if the increase in the number of volunteers is definitely smaller. According to the organizations (associations and foundations), volunteers (who are not members of the organizations) participate in the work of half of them (44.4% in 2004 and 47% in 2002). In 2004, half of the organizations that cooperated with volunteers had fewer than 10 volunteers, 27% had between 11 and 30, and 5% more than 100.
According to the results of the research “Social Diagnosis 2005”, almost one in five Poles (19%) had taken part in some kind of a public gathering during previous year. Country dwellers and farmers participated significantly more frequently – 21.4% and 38% respectively – than city dwellers. Less than half (39%) of the 19% that participated in a public meeting in the previous year took the floor. The countryside is an environment in which such forms of social life as public meetings about local and professional issues are still in use. The same research showed that, during the previous three years, 13.5% of the respondents took part in local community activities (within the local administration, housing estate or town).
The structure of civil society is the dimension that received the lowest score. The worst scores were given to the level of citizen engagement in supporting CSOs’ activities and, more generally, their engagement in public activities. These phenomena are currently at low levels, but slowly increasing in Poland. NGOs have, for many years, admitted that one of the basic challenges they face is the lack of citizens willing to selflessly support their activities. Generally, a limited and decreasing interest in public affairs is one of the most important weaknesses of Polish public life, which is also apparent in the low voter turnout. It is sad that in the latest parliamentary elections only half of Poles exercised their right to vote. One of the weakest components of civil society’s structure is its resources, particularly the lack of sustainable financial resources. This problem takes different forms in different types of organizations. In some cases it is a question of basic resources for activities, while in other cases it is a matter of access to resources, and in still others it is a matter of financial fluidity and the so-called match funding required to receive larger grants, in particular from the EU funds.
As to the diversity and representativeness of the civil society arena, CSOs in Poland represent mainly active citizens, while the participation of marginalized groups (mainly victims of political and economic reforms after 1989 in Poland) is very low. Nevertheless all the important minority groups - religious, sexual and ethnic - have the right to freely associate and choose their representatives. There is an evident predominance of men at CSO management level, although women are in the majority among the organizations’ employees. The analysis of the geographical spread of CSOs indicates that there are more organizations in the cities, but also that the organizations that operate in cities are larger, richer and work on a larger scale. In 2004, 36% of the organisations belonged to different kinds of regional and national federations and unions, which is perceived to be at an unsatisfactory level. Despite this fact, the effectiveness of the sector’s infrastructure has been assessed better than its representativeness. Self-regulation is not a strong side of the third sector - a study conducted in 2002 revealed that 72% of organizations had never heard of the existence of the Charter of Codes of the Non-Governmental Organizations. A positive trend is that two “branch” documents have been created to define the rules of operation - for environmental and watchdog organizations. Cooperation within Polish civil society is developing rather within its different sub-sectors than between them. Despite the fact that 30% of the organizations claim they do not have relations with other organizations, the majority of organizations declare to find the benefit from cooperating more important than the potential problems related to it.
The environmental movement has a long history of about 25 years in Poland. It has from the beginning had a large internal diversity, but, at the same time, a strong identity. Observers of the movement talk about a crisis in the end of the 1990-ies. Nevertheless, the environmental “sub-sector” is characterized by a strong, distinct identity compared to the non-governmental sector as a whole. The survey “Situation of the Non-Governmental Sector in Poland in 2004” showed that, for 3.6% of the organizations, environmental protection was their main area of activity, while another 16% claimed to conduct some environmental activities. From these, 3% worked for the reduction or control of pollution and for recycling, 4% for the protection of natural reserves, 6% for the protection of the natural environment, 3% for the protection and care of animals, and the largest part, 8.5%, worked with education within ecology and promotion of environmental sustainability. In 2000, the Asocjacje Association conducted the study “Polish Environmental Movement 2000”, in which more than 1,000 environmental initiatives and almost 800 organizations that work for the protection of environment were identified.
The Polish Green Network is one of the organizations that work for environmental education. It is a nationwide union of 8 associations and foundations, which, among other things, encourages conscious and responsible consumer decisions (through the campaign “Buy Responsibly”) and work with monitoring of international financial institutions. Similar activities are undertaken by Klub Gaja Association (member of the Polish Green Network) that for a dozen years or so has conducted environmental activity by means of such campaigns as “an Animal is Not a Thing” (that includes actions against transport of living horses and the use of wild animals in circuses) and “Vistula Now”. The international environmental organizations Greenpeace and WWF also operate in Poland (in total they conduct 10 projects in Poland related to the protection of rivers, forests and the climate as well as to the promotion of sustainable development and traditional, environmentally friendly agriculture). Unfortunately, the activities of the environmental organizations do not receive much public support and are not commonly known – the media focus on presenting the malfeasances of a few organizations.
As a result of various projects developed by DIALOG Program in partnership with local administration, City Hall of Brasov encourages owners associations to develop community projects targeting the rehabilitation of public spaces with in-kind contribution of their own. During 2003 DIALOG Program in partnership with budget department, Citizens Information Center, owners associations representatives and Public Works Department agreed to modify previous Local Decision no. 222/2001 adopted by Local Council in order to facilitate and make easier the access of owners associations to public money for community projects. Thus, a new and more transparent Local Decision no. 112/2004 was adopted by the Local Council. Mainly DIALOG Program and Municipality of Brasov adapted the regulations to the requirements owners associations asked for.
Objectives and activities
- to enhance the management capacity for 20 owners associations from Brasov City in order to involve them in community projects elaboration and implementation in partnership with local administration;
- to provide technical assistance and consulting for owners associations representatives in order to implement a number of 20 community projects conceived and unfolded by owners associations’ representatives in partnership with local administration in neighbourhoods from Brasov.
Playground for children in Fundatura Harmanului district “Speranta” owners association
“Speranta” owners association is placed in an industrialized area of Brasov city. A number of 140 families with about 150 kids live here. Because this association is isolated, few local administration representatives paid attention to their needs. Kids were using inappropriate ways to play and also unprotected. The president of the association Mr. Andrei Gheorghe contacted DIALOG Program. Together with him DIALOG staff started the process of designing and implementing a playground for children financially supported by Local Council. All the stages were passed; many inhabitants of the association offered their support in order to develop the project, working for implementation. These actions strengthen the local community. One of the sponsors provided 2 trucks full of earth for greening the area. This is one of the projects, which entirely transform the area, making it a comfortable place both for parents and children.
“Pavilioanele CFR 100” owners association. Citizen Advisory Committee in Craiter district
In 2004 Dialog program started cooperation with Citizen Advisory Committee in Craiter district, formed with Citizen Information Centre support. In a first stage the committee was able to initiate a community project in that area but not completing it. DIALOG staff contacted the committee representative and with necessary assistance a number of 3 community projects were designed with four owners associations as beneficiaries. The projects targeted the construction of playground for children, recreational facilities and rehabilitation of a public space. The sponsor provided necessary materials for two projects in order to equip the area as a recreational park. In the park area located near Pavilioanele CFR 100 Association a number of 40 pines were planted and a football terrain was made. Also, for this objective, another company provided 6 trucks with earth for the pines and football terrain.
Indirect results obtained during collaboration with Citizens Advisory Committee “Craiter”
During collaboration between DIALOG staff and Citizen Advisory Committee “Craiter” emerged the necessity of rehabilitation for a kindergarten and a park. Although these projects were not eligible for the public – private partnership program, DIALOG staff advised CAC Craiter members to address a request, enclosed with the needs of the inhabitants and a proposal of refitting the area, to City Hall of Brasov. The area being under different jurisdiction, the Mayor of Brasov, managed to collaborate with the company in order to design a refitting of the area situated near railways.
Rehabilitation of 5 recreational areas - Loco 66 Condominium Condominium
Loco 66, situated in the ASTRA I district is an association of 4 condominiums. The president of Loco 66 has contacted us at the suggestion of a Municipal Inspector in order to get support for the refitting of 5 parks. Following the consultations we concluded that 4 areas around the buildings were to be fitted as parks and in the 5th area, away from the buildings, a playground would be set up for children.
The major structural weaknesses of the Romanian civil society remain low levels of citizen participation in associational life, together with a poor level of organization and limited inter-relations among civil society organizations (CSOs), which represent obstacles for the development of a strong civil society sector. Despite many attempts by CSOs to mobilize citizens around issues of public concern at both local and national level, the response from the population has remained modest.
Several surveys and studies show that a minority of Romanian citizens have ever undertaken any form of non-partisan political action (e.g. written a letter to a newspaper, signed a petition; attended a demonstration). In the CSDF/ISRA survey, carried out as part of the CSI (CSDF/ISRA Center Marketing Research, 2005), almost 60% of those interviewed declared that during 2004, they never attended a demonstration, march, strike or signed a petition. In addition, a minority of people donate to charity on a regular basis. The same survey revealed that 39% of Romanian citizens made donations in 2004 (9% of them often or very often and 30% sometimes), while 44% never made donations during the year.
A minority of Romanian citizens belong to at least one CSO. According to the Public Opinion Barometer from October 2003 an estimated 9% of the Romanian citizens are members of at least one CSO, defined as professional association, political party, trade union, religious group, environmental group, sports association or any other organization and association which does not generate any income.
In a study conducted by ARC, only 8% of those interviewed declared they had ever volunteered in an organized manner. In Romania, like in other countries from Eastern Europe, volunteerism has been perceived as associated with Communism and, as a result, it has remained weak. There is still widespread memory of the communist era’s “forced volunteering” which keeps people away from engaging in volunteer activities. However, over the last years there has been growing interest in volunteering, especially among young people, particularly among students, who regard it as an opportunity to get professional experience, to connect with other people or to use it as a stepping stone for a permanent job.
A minority of Romanian citizens have participated in a collective community action within the last year (e.g. attended a community meeting, participated in a community-organized event or a collective effort to solve a community problem). Empirical data on this issue is scarce. However, results from the CSDF/ISRA survey revealed that in 2004, 37% of citizens were directly involved in solving a specific problem of the community, while 63% declared they have been involved very rarely or never.
A number of Romanian civil society activities in the area of environmental sustainability can be detected. Broad-based support and public visibility of such initiatives, however, are lacking. Although the Communist legacy of intensive industrialization has left deep scars, and serious pollution and sustainable development problems exist, environmental issues have a low salience of the on the Romanian public agenda. A great deal of damage has been caused by industrial production methods and this trend appears to be continuing, the recent pollution of the Tisa and the Danube rivers, for example. In the context of the Romania’s desire to join EU, a series of important reforms have been carried out in order to meet the European environmental acquis. This has provided an important opportunity for NGOs active in this field.
The size of the environmental field of Romania NGOs is quite small (around 5% of all the organizations). The number of the active environmental NGOs was estimated in 2004 at 60-100 (Potozky 2005). Around 78% of them operate at local and regional level, 12% at national level and 9% are active on multiple levels. However, environmental CSOs exist in almost all parts of the country. They sometimes carry out activities of public education and awareness-raising in local communities or activities of cleaning limited areas (small rivers, parts of some forests, or tourist sites). There have also been cases where environmental CSOs took action against private or state own companies which had violated the environmental protection norms.
Although there have been a few successful experiences at national level (a national coalition – Natura 2000 and a project by Terra Mileniul III aiming at fostering the dialogue with the political parties and the Government on environmental protection issues) the impact at national level is evaluated as more important at local and regional level. The most visible actions at national level were some campaigns strongly reflected in the mass media such as: the campaign against the project Drakula Park (a campaign which attracted the support of UNESCO and eventually led to the abandoning of a controversial tourist project by the Romanian Government), and the campaigns „Save Rosia Montana” (a campaign against a planned gold exploitation in south-western Romania which had also an international echo), „Save Danube’s Delta”, „Save Vama Veche”. The impact of environmental NGOs has been considered extremely consistent at local and regional level. Local campaigns were carried out in Constanta (by the organization Mare Nostrum), in Targu Mures and in Cluj, by local coalitions (such as ECOCLUJ). Local environmental NGOs have been active in projects of rural sustainable development and particularly in the management of protected areas and biodiversity conservation.
A more recent example is the “Let's Do It, Romania!” event in 2011, where more than 250,000 people all over the country responded the call for action to clean Romania in a single day. This achievement even surpassed the one of last year, when 200,000 volunteers joined the project.
However, their impact is limited. For instance only 39% of the respondents in the regional stakeholder questionnaires have given examples of environmental campaigns or other activities by CSOs, and they referred to the big national campaigns. Their audience is also generally limited to the small number of activists engaged in these actions. Mass media reflects environmental concerns only accidentally (the CSI mass media review shows that only 6% of the news items reflect the activities of environmental organizations), and pay more attention to the nation-wide campaigns or to issues that have other implications than strictly environmental (usually issues that are related to national politics, corruption or to the EU negotiation process). There are however, successful examples of involving mass media in reflecting environmental CSOs initiatives. The media review analysis has shown that some newspapers pay more attention to environmental issues than others. An example of constant direct involvement by CSOs in writing on environmental issues is offered by the environment section of “Academia Catavencu” with regular contributions by some green organizations. Others newspapers seem also more interested in reflecting environmental issues and civil society initiatives in this area.
Break down of planning economy and transition to market led to terrible ordeal in depopulated Russian Northern countryside, ceasing of production, poverty and infrastructure demolishing. Population is dying off (1–2 percent a year). It is followed by overall apathy and despair, alcoholism, growing criminality, drugs abuse, etc. Situation is hardened by severe climate, isolation, absence of roads. Our priority was to work with rural areas (most vulnerable ones) which are a real treasurer of old cultural traditions. The biggest priority - bottom up community based initiatives. One of the main reasons of the crisis is a disability and unwillingness of people to take initiatives and to adapt to new conditions, as they got used to live in a system where decisions were always taken by the authorities. But existing administrative system can’t provide it any more. In order to survive villages had to create new system of local governance.
Our aim was to stop destruction of villages by supporting community based system of local governance, local development (LD), rising accumulated human energy as the main force of development. Our aims were: to “open” society, promote the culture of dialogue, joint decision making, provide organisational development of groups and obtaining necessary managerial skills, monitor and ensure their success. We also had to support establishment of co-operation of groups with authorities, their networking and spread information about positive experience of LD.
We believe that LD can only be initiated if there is necessity in it and entire responsibility. We arranged numerous round tables, discussions, meetings, trying to provide people with understanding
what the reasons of crisis were, and what they could do with it. We helped these people to unite with each other, form local development groups (organ TOS), get skills of joint action and managing groups. We worked on inspiring and empowerment them, getting new vision, understanding what and in what way they could do. We helped them to make their choice. It was difficult and fragile process of supporting new We-concept growth, rising of new values and relationship, which could set the wheel of self-reliance of local communities in motion.
We arranged education for members of groups on projecting, planning, accounting, legislation, taxation, etc. In 2001 we helped our groups to develop and implement their own projects which involved population of this villages mostly on voluntary basis (building water towers, bridges, ferries, clubs, elderly houses, market place on the road to sell local goods, starting pedigree sheep breeding and honey production; cleaning of river banks in an ancient city; doing forests rehabilitation, etc.)
We created Regional content of development projects, which turn into permanent. We monitored projects ensuring their success. We developed and adopted techniques of social consulting and adult
education. We paid special attention to specific women’s role, creating social awareness that women are the main force in renovation and encouraging their initiatives. We were consulting and educating municipalities, trying to provide links between local development groups and municipalities, incorporating TOS into municipal system. We worked our municipal legislation on local governance, which was adopted in most of municipalities. We also developed a draft of a Regional law. We developed regional networks of TOS organs; build up Association of village renewal. We created an information network, Agency and page on local development for rural district newspapers.
- System of bottom up community based governance (impossible few years ago) established. More hat 35 LD groups (TOS) appeared in 14 districts of the region.
- We proved that with minimised support LD can be very successful even in very marginal and ruined rural areas. 53 development projects implemented. More then 1200 people actively worked (mostly as volunteers). It directly affected more then 18000 people.
- System of open access to financial support via Regional Content was established.
- Dozens of concrete problems solved. 88 objects (clubs, bridges, ferries, medical centers, water towers and pipeline, parks, market buildings, facilities for tourism, stadiums, wells, etc.) have been build or restored. 14 working institutions, co-operatives started, 33 permanent and 240 temporary working places created. 9 historic and cultural objects (bell tower, merchant mansion, churches, old houses, etc.) were preserved, few historical collections created, 3 museums (expositions) opened.
- New strata of activeness appeared. Part of population united, got self esteem and believe in own forces, inspiration, changed their point from “give us” to “let’s do”.
- Association of village renewal is founded, network is growing.
- Most local authorities support LD and allocate more financial support every year. They provide local communities with bigger responsibilities. TOS is recognised as important link between population and authorities. Regional and lastly some federal politicians express interesting in this experience.
- Municipal legislation was worked out and adopted. Regional law on Territorial Self-government is
worked out and submitted for adoption.
- Broad information field on LD is created. More than 400 publications and programmes prepared. More that 200 000 people have been informed about LD.
As a whole, the value for the CSI civic engagement dimension is 33.7%. This means that civic engagement is quite low, and in the view of participants in the research several reasons can be advanced for this. One reason may be a lack of public trust in CSOs. Just one third of the people surveyed in the Geo Rating Survey trust CSOs of at least one kind; only 4% trust CSOs of more than five kinds. In addition, low levels of trust in political institutions in general could cause low levels of political involvement. In particular, political parties have a negative trust rating among Russians: the share of those who do not trust them exceeds the share of those who do by 16%. The largest party, United Russia, is closely connected to the state. The most powerful opposition party, the Communist Party, is strongly compromised by its past. Moreover, the authors of the report observe a few negative phenomena in Russia. Firstly, there are servile organisations built from above by the party in power or other political groups that are focused on discrediting political opponents in rather dubious ways. Neither founders nor members of these organisations are interested in public recognition of their activities. Secondly, there are coalitions of opposition groups which arise quickly and disappear just as fast, being established only for short-term political goals. Thirdly, there are strikes arranged by informal unions, the full extent of which is not captured in official statistics. Fourthly, there are various sorts of extremist, nationalist, and sometimes semi-criminal associations focused on goals which are obviously not directed at public well-being but which indirectly or directly impact on the formation of political tendencies. The most vivid example of this is represented by the disorder in Manezhnaya Square in Moscow.
However, while there are low levels of involvement in formal voluntary work connected with CSO activities, a more positive picture emerges if volunteering outside formal CSO structures is examined. The Geo Rating Survey asked respondents: “Have you been engaged for the past two to three years, in addition to your primary activity, with non-compulsory and unpaid work for the benefit of other people (without taking family members and close relatives into consideration)? If you have, how often?” Nearly two thirds of respondents said that they had not (63%), while one third of people reported that they had worked for the benefit of other people (33%). There is also a differentiation of involvement of Russians in voluntary activity according to the regions.
However, deeper research investigating volunteering in Russia conducted by the CSCSNS in 2009 shows that volunteer engagement is much more widespread. This study showed that 61% of Russians took part in at least one kind of voluntary activity during the past year; 37% participated in one or two kinds of activities; every tenth – in three; every fourteenth – in four kinds of activities. Furthermore, despite a generally low level of formal voluntary activity, increased activity is evident in periods of crisis. When natural fires spread across Russia in 2010, CSOs showed their capabilities as catalysts of constructive public activity under emergency conditions. It is possible that the level of public activity in stable periods is sufficient, but that it is capable of mobilising quickly under conditions of instability.
The majority of organisations which do not have an environmental policy have no plans to devise and publish one in the future. This may correspond to the predominant type of attitude towards the environment in Russia, which is characterised by the adaptation of environmental behaviour to modern life and a distancing of most of the population from participating in solving ecological problems.
As far as the role of civil society in modelling democratic decision-making is concerned, 49% of the surveyed heads of CSOs consider civil society’s role to be insignificant; including 16% who consider it extremely insignificant. The representatives of organisations engaged in environmental protection were most likely to affirm civil society’s role in advancing democratic principles of decision-making.
During the last few years, there were several famous cases that can be considered as best practices of advocacy in Russia. For example, ecologists managed to prevent the irresponsible laying of oil and gas pipes in the vicinity of Baikal Lake. Significant efforts are being made by environmental organisations to change the Forestry Code and to introduce state forest conservation. A Gazprom tower construction project which could have irreparably harmed the architectural character of St.- Petersburg was stopped.
The most prominent of all-Russia environmental groups include: Russian Regional Resource Center (working as a special TACIS project), GreenPeace-Russia (working in Russia since 1992), World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) in Russia, ISAR: Resources for Environmental Activists was founded in 1983, as the Institute for Soviet and American Relations, Social-Ecologic Union. There is a multitude of well-organised regional groups, like Coalition “Clean Baltic” and “Children of the Baltic Sea”, etc. A number of environmental movements tried chances at parliamentary elections, e.g. environmental party “Kedr” (created in 1993, turned into political party in 1994).
Environmental NGOs are active campaigners. For example, GreenPeace-Russia organised a number of public campaigns: anti-nuclear (including themes of energy-saving and alternative energy cources), on preservation of forests, on sea bio-resources, against chemical contamination, campaign to save Lake Baikal, etc. Other methods of civil society’s work to sustain the environment include advocacy, practical actions to clean environment, resolutions and open letters.
The Russian environmental movement appears to be well entrenched with environmental organisations actively addressing issues from nuclear safety protection of local parks with environmental organisations working in each of Russia’s eighty-nine constituent regions. During Perestroika, the Russian environmental movement was able to mobilize thousands of citizens to sign petitions and demonstrate against further development of the country’s nuclear power industry. For example, the movement successfully prevented the construction of more than 50 nuclear reactors, as well as hydroelectric power stations and gas pipelines. In fact, throughout the 1980s and 1990s environmentalists are attributed by scholars to having played a momentous role in mobilizing grievances against the state, eroding the legitimacy of the Soviet administration and precipitating the collapse of the Soviet regime.
The example of population’s and environmental NGOs involvement in the decision making process on waste disposal is of importance here. Nizhny Novgorod Oblast gives, perhaps, the most successful examples of ecoNGO activities, regional environmental policy and interaction between NGOs, government agencies and businesses. The main umbrella ecoNGO organisation is the “Dront” Ecological Center. It provides for the efficient work of the environmental movement.” An anti-nuclear campaign was launched in 1995 by the ‘ECOPROTECTION!’ International Group and the International Socio-Ecological Union. ‘ECOPROTECTION!’ is the alliance of environmental activists acting on the territory of the former USSR, founded in 1989-1990 in Kaliningrad. Now, it has its branches in Moscow, Voronezh and some other cities of Russia and Eastern Europe. The International Socio-Ecological Union was founded in 1988 and has in its ranks about 300 member organisations on the territory of the former USSR.
This programme is a continuation of the previous 4-year programme with the same name “Making a Difference” which was focused on strengthening the NGO sector in Serbia, encouraging development of local NGOs/initiatives and networking and on support to active and participatory citizenship, especially among youth and other vulnerable groups. Four-year programme resulted in strengthening CI as one of the leading organizations in the sector, as well as creation of FeNS – Federation of NGOs in Serbia, and significant development of youth component of Civic Initiatives programme, both in terms of internal capacities, as well as in the environment (youth educational programme became a part of the official education system curriculum).
There are still many indications that Serbia faces much more difficult challenges and dangers than most of its neighbours in Central and Eastern Europe. The consequences of dictatorial heritage and wars are still profound: most of Serbian society is insular, politically disoriented, passive in the face of authority, lacking knowledge of democracy and democratic institutions, suspicious of Western and European standards of human rights and minority rights, and, in the aftermath of a continuous ten-year drumbeat of nationalist ideology, deeply intolerant. Middle class ceased to exist and the number of the poor increased two and a half times. Every tenth citizen (10.5%) in Serbia was poor in 2003 and more people live somewhat above the poverty line. Faced with severe problems of society impoverishment, the Government adopted the Poverty Reduction Strategic Paper (PRSP) in October 2003. It defines poverty as a multidimensional phenomenon which, apart from the insufficient income for covering basic life needs, also entails the lack of access to employment, inappropriate residential conditions and inadequate access to social protection, health, education and communal services. Other key aspects of poverty also include the lack of access to healthy environment and natural resources, primarily clean water and air.
After 2003 parliamentary elections and a forming of a minority Government, Serbian civil society was at a crossroads. The role and position of NGOs in relation to the Government were not clearly defined. There is no consensus on partnership with civil society and we have the impression that the new Government is accepting the presence of NGOs mostly because of pressure from the international institutions. Ideas such as citizens’ participation are viewed as not a real issue and pushed aside by all political factors. At the beginning of 2005, CI carried out the NGO survey with a goal to assess the current state of the sector and the challenges it faces, so that the sector and those who support it might be able to react adequately. The overall results of the research were alarming. The very survival of the sector has been seriously endangered, as up to 63 % of organizations had not secured resources for 2005 (at the beginning of 2005). The reasons are diverse and among the main ones is the lack of domestic fiscal regulations for the sector functioning and the exit strategy of international donors. Funding by international donors for a long time will not and cannot be replaced by financing from domestic sources due to the disinterest of government and local business to fund it. It became obvious that many NGOs, especially on the local level, are discouraged by these trends and are closing down. This demands an urgent and all encompassing united strategy to maintain the sector in such a condition so as to satisfy at least the basic needs of the society, and not to harm the process of democratization. The results which the sector has achieved in spite of the complicated and unfavourable circumstances are a guarantee that the sector, with adequate support from donors, the state, and the business sector, is capable of overcoming the existing crisis, and contributing to the dynamic development of civil society, and thereby the development of Serbia into a modern, democratic European state.
Comparing its current membership with that one from the 90s, it appears that civil society in Serbia has grown significantly with almost half of the respondents to the CSI population survey (47%) being members of at least one CSO (compared to 15% in 1996). Even though the number of citizens who are members of at least one CSO is three times greater and multiple membership is six times higher today, the level of citizen participation in non-partisan political actions fell significantly, particularly after October 2000. The data indicates that during the 1990s, in times of war, sanctions and authoritarian regime 45% of the citizens took part in some of these activities, while the number of those active was almost halved (25%) after the regime was overthrown in October 2000. The most frequent forms of political actions during the 90s were protests and demonstrations (39%) while the most frequent form after nowadays is signing petitions (21%). Among the CSOs with the highest membership are trade unions (27%), political parties/movements (26.5%), NGOs and sports groups (both 19%) as well as tenants’ associations (17%). Very few citizens are members of environmental protection organizations – only 5%. Most CSOs do not have volunteers on a regular basis and volunteering is characterized mainly by informal assistance to neighbours or family members. The public does not practice a culture of giving, since charitable giving occurs only in response to tragic events or conditions of hardship. Charitable giving on a regular basis and in a systematic manner is still not common in Serbia, mostly due to the restrictive economic situation and the lack of trust among citizens. The perception of strong apathy and disengagement of Serbian citizens from civil society is widespread and citizens participate in CSOs’ activities rather superficially, even in cases when they are actually members of such organizations. In terms of citizens’ participation in collective community actions, only a small minority attends meetings (17%) or participates in local community actions (21%). In general, looking at the individual level, the assessment of civil society’s structure indicated that personal activism at the local level is still based mainly on the political preferences of individuals, as was the case during the 90s.
Other specific areas of concern were identified, mainly: insufficient communication and cooperation among CSOs; lack of self-regulatory mechanisms on a sectoral basis and moderately efficient and regionally distributed support organisations. Communication within sectors is developed to some extent only within groups of organizations involved in similar or neighbouring spheres, such as associations of persons with disabilities, ecological organizations, women’s networks, association of judges, etc. Thus these groups act more like interest groups, which communicate amongst themselves (most often on an occasional and rarely a regular basis) but seldom with external actors. Moreover, civil society actors cooperate irregularly on issues of common interest, and the number of active networks and coalitions is modest, even among those organizations focusing on the local level. Networks and coalitions at national and regional level are very rare. The lack of cooperation among CSOs is a reflection of the fact that CSOs no longer have a “common enemy” as they did in the 1990s, when they had to work together if they wanted to achieve their goals. The geographical distribution of CSOs exposes the clearly urban character of these organizations. Correspondingly, representation of the rural population and the poor in membership and leadership of CSOs is very limited.
While just fewer than half the Regional Stakeholders (41%) believe that the CS role in environmental conservation is significant, only 1% of the citizens of Serbia share their opinion.146 (Civil Society 2004) Eight percent of the stakeholders consider that the role of civil society is completely insignificant, 30% share the opinion that it is moderate and 20% stated that it is limited.
Most of the representatives of local authorities believe that pressures for resolving ecological problems are exerted by civil society, but that these problems are, as they say, too great for only the CSOs to deal with. Representatives of political parties are almost unanimous in assessing that civil society is the loudest and most active in exerting pressure on the polluters. The majority of the key informants state the important role of the State in resolving ecological problems, because civil society and NGOs cannot assume the State’s responsibility, they cannot do something which the State should do such as harmonizing the existing regulations with European legislation, because many declarations proclaim the right to a healthy environment as being one of the fundamental human rights. In this context, the prime role of civil society organizations must lie in raising the ecological awareness of citizens, equally, at local and at national level.
In the opinion of the representatives of academic institutions, the first ecological activities were initiated in Serbia under socialism, and ecological organizations were more active 15 years ago than they are today, when their impact is small in proportion to the ecological problems of the country, particularly after the NATO bombing campaign of 1999. In Serbia, there are 212 ecological organizations, societies and movements, and, in the opinion of most of the representatives of all social sectors, like civil society as a whole, they inadequately promote and advocate for the issue of environmental protection. There is also a widespread belief that ecological activities are reduced to campaigns dedicated to certain dates or ecological incidents and that they are often reduced to individual activities in which only a small number of people are involved. It is also stated that the projects of local ecological NGOs have low budgets and are earmarked for resolving small specific problems, while greater problems such as industrial pollution, waste waters and sewerage must be solved at a higher level and by employing greater resources. The activities focused on resolving this kind of problem require a developed strategy and unremitting attention, but in Serbia, systematic nature conservation work does not exist. Therefore, in the opinion of the majority of the interlocutors in the CIVICUS surveys, the civil society sector does not have any adequate strategy. The greatest problems for the better promotion of nature conservation and for civil society development are low standards and the widespread opinion that the issue of ecological damage is far less important than the source of income which the perpetrators of ecological damage provide to the people they employ. The conclusion of the NGO representatives is that the overall situation in Serbia has an adverse effect on successfully addressing environmental protection and that the authorities, on their chosen path to European integration, have to cooperate more closely with NGOs.
Almost half (47%) of the Regional Stakeholders remember last year’s civil society campaigns and actions for environmental preservation, 22% remember lots of examples, while only 10% of the interviewed cannot remember any. The most frequent examples stated by one third of the Stakeholders are local actions for environmental protection and cleaning towns or rivers carried out under the Local Ecological Action Plan (LEAP). These plans are an attempt at systematic action in the sphere of the environmental protection. Based on an analysis of the existing conditions, an attempt was made to create local ecological strategies.149 As examples of good practice they mention the municipal “Ekofond” in Užice, from which CSO actions are financed. It is not possible to determine whether and to what extent these plans are efficient, what phase of design they have reached, or in which municipalities they have been implemented.
Out of the national campaigns, only the one related to Rescuing the river Tara – We want the Tara we don't want a muddy pool (9%) was recalled by Regional Stakeholders. The press covered civil society activism to preserve the environment in 63 articles (7% of the total), while electronic media attach hardly any importance to this subject, on which there was only one item. The daily papers monitored show that the network of ecological CSOs is quite well developed. This does not, however, apply to the ecological awareness of the citizens. They also show that civil society ecological organizations often appeal to state institutions to take a more active approach towards ecological problems and to conceive a sustainable strategy of environmental protection. From the media announcements it may be concluded that the CSOs make a considerable contribution first and foremost towards shaping the ecological awareness of the broader public.
This case study describes citizens' efforts to address a repeated problem in the city of Banska Bystrica. The problem is with how the city prepares development projects in neighbourhoods. After repeated experience of having projects proposed which citizens didn't like, they formed their own commission to look at the entire system and propose some solutions. The commission met separately with city officials, neighbourhood residents and investors. They also visited England to learn more about how another European Union country operates. They concluded their initial work by preparing a report with recommendations and holding a press conference to promote these recommendations. While the final results are not yet known, there is considerable discussion about the recommendations and new hope for a change.
The main goal of the project was to create a new website www.klokocina.sk that could serve the local community of the Klokočina neighbourhood in Nitra, Slovakia. Nitra is located 85 km from Bratislava with the population of 90 000 inhabitants. The Klokočina neighbourhood is the biggest neighbourhood in the city. About 33 000 people live in high rise buildings. In spite of this high concentration of people, local citizens did not have any source of information (local newspaper, radio, TV, etc.) This project significantly improved citizens’ awareness of community life and contributed to their active participation in decision making processes.
Citizens of the neighbourhood have the possibility to receive through the website important information from the community life; lead the discussion forums, comment on the decisions of the city concerning the neighbourhood, share opinions with others, etc. Ten NGOs that are active in the neighbourhood are involved to the project and contribute with information to the website content. Participation of young people that were trained is not as high as we expected. We do not have enough financial sources for professional maintenance of the web site. Editing of the website is done by the volunteers, we miss a manager who will be able to fully utilize the capacity of the community website.
Community involvement in Bratislava – benefiting from the input of local NGOs in adapting the city to climate change impacts
Setting up network alliances
The GRaBS project partner REC Slovakia (the Regional Environment Centre for Eastern Europe, Country Office Slovakia) is an NGO and member of a larger local network of environmental organisations and activists in the City of Bratislava. This network has created an initiative under the title ‘The Free Association of Bratislava’s Environmental Organizations – Vol’né Zdru enie Bratislavských Ochranárskych Organizácií’, and has established contact with the Bratislava City Office (the local authority) and become involved in planning and decision-making processes concerning the environment (including climate change adaptation) and the sustainable development of the city in general.
In 2009, the Bratislava City Office began preparation of the official Strategic Development Plan, setting out planning priorities and objectives for the years 2010- 2020. The Free Association of Bratislava’s Environmental Organisations formally declared its interest in becoming involved in the preparation process, and members of the network participate (although not under formalised agreement) in task groups working on the plan. The Quality of the Environment and Urban Spaces Task Group is of particular relevance to climate change adaptation.
Closely connected to this process is the preparation of the climate change adaptation action plan being drawn up by REC Slovakia as part of the GRaBS project. This latter plan is being informed by participation in an ‘enviro-network’, made up of the Slovak Union of Nature and Landscape Protectors, the Society for Sustainable Living, and other NGOs and academic experts (such as the Faculty of Architecture, Slovak University of Technology, and the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Comenius University of Bratislava). The network is run in close co-operation with the Bratislava City Office (particularly the green space management department).
Integrating climate change adaptation in a strategic planning context
The Bratislava Strategic Development Plan 2010-2020 is the principal guide for the spatial development of the city during the plan period. Working within the Quality of the Environment and Urban Spaces Task Group, REC Slovakia successfully highlighted the importance of climate change issues and thus ensured that adaptation measures would be a priority in implementing the plan. The Bratislava Strategic Development Plan was presented to the public in April and was finalised in early summer.
Basic approach to the participation strategy
The Free Association of Bratislava’s Environmental Organisations’ participation in the process of preparing the Bratislava Strategic Development Plan has involved:
l assessing all relevant information delivered by the Bratislava City Office;
l participating in the official work and meetings of the task groups; and
l delivering critical comments and input on preparatory documents for the spatial strategy (with a great degree of success so far).
The network itself consults the communities who support their work. Following the formal presentation of the Strategic Development Plan in April 2010, the network members organised a community event to inform the general public of the Plan’s content and receive feedback. This stepped approach provided linkages between stakeholder participation through the network and communities affected by the Plan.
l a lack of resources (most of the work performed by the network is on a voluntary basis, apart from the use of some resources already available in funded projects);
l a lack of understanding of climate change issues and of the need for climate change adaptation strategies and responses (the Bratislava City Office is not yet convinced of the urgency of the topic); and
l only partial understanding of climate change adaptation strategies and plans (the Bratislava City Office is not considering this topic as matter of urgency).
l Although there was no formal agreement with the City, the network has been allowed to become a full member of the task groups preparing the Bratislava Strategic Development Plan.
l The active participation of environmental organisations within the network has delivered improvements to the Strategic Development Plan. Climate change challenges and mitigation and adaptation issues were fully incorporated as priorities under the objectives of improving the quality of the environment and urban spaces.
l Identifying all the public stakeholders and key players has proved to be vitally significant in the development and refinement of spatial strategies and planning processes (including adaptation planning). Their involvement is a precondition for serious participation and the legitimacy of the entire planning process. The development of the Strategic Development Plan has demonstrated that this participation also improves the quality of final plan documents.
l It is necessary to properly engage the general public and key stakeholders in the planning process by providing good information, sharing agendas for task group discussions, and making public all relevant documents.
l The opportunity to make comments and influence the development of plan documents is necessary at each phase of process.
l The level of environmental awareness and awareness of the impacts of climate change must be raised among all the parties involved in the process (including the Bratislava City Office).
l Good co-ordination between organisations in the environmental network is important in consolidating policy input and suggestions (and can be achieved through the meetings, e-mail conferences, etc.).
l Participatory approaches raise the level of background understanding among all involved parties.
l Supporting community events at various scales – such as public hearings, discussion forums, and community meetings – is important in developing a stepped approach, linking stakeholder and community involvement.
Citizen's forum European debates http://www.evropske-razprave.si/ is providing a national on-line deliberation space for facilitated public debates and consultations on relevant European issues in Slovenia. The main goal of on-line forum is to establish a permanent on-line dialogue between Slovene public (citizens, NGOs, civil society) and European decision-making institutions (primarily Slovene members of the European parliament) on current EU policies and topics. Citizen's forum e-participation process is based on principles of deliberative and participatory democracy and is open to all internet users without prior registration. On-line discussions can be initiated by citizens or NGOs and consultations are initiated by Members of the European Parliament. Consultations include video messages and invitation from MEPs, information about the policy context, phase of political decision-making, time frame, relevant documents and starting questions. Inputs posted in the forum or submitted by e-mail or paper questionnaires are summarized into reports by facilitators and sent to Members of the European Parliament to provide feedback. Different web 2.0 features like Facebook, You Tube, RSS and Twitter are used to involve public combined with press conferences, on-line video streaming and chat rooms covering live forums with MEPs from Slovenia.
During the period 2009-2010 nearly 17.000 unique internet users visited Citizen's forum. 3 online public consultations with MEPs covering EU policy issues such as Climate change, Unemployment, Violence against Women (etc.) were implemented. 7 on-line public debates covering issues of European elections and performance of the European Parliament were initiated. 634 forum contributions were published by citizens and NGOs and 4 facilitators report from on-line debates and consultations were made. The Slovene MEPs and European elections political parties candidates provided 12 feedbacks on facilitators reports. There are examples of MEPs involving consultation reports into their work at the European parliament or presenting them at the corresponding EP committee sessions as reporters for a specific policy issue.
The Civic Engagement dimension scores a medium value of 46.5%. The data shows that Slovenian citizens quite readily engage as members of CSOs and as volunteers. The rise of volunteering seem to be the result of efforts invested by voluntary organisations toward establishing a regulatory framework to provide systemic support for the development and implementation of voluntary work at national and local levels. A law on volunteering, which was to address the rights of volunteers and provide systemic support for volunteering, and which was co-drafted by CSOs in 2004, was submitted to the legislative procedure at the end of 2010 and was passed by Parliament in February 2011. It stipulates the formal rights of volunteers, the obligations of CSOs and the systematic means of volunteerism support from public sources.
33% of Slovenian citizens are active members of social organisations, such as churches or other religious organisations, sports and recreation clubs, arts, music and educational organisations. Sports and recreation organisations have the largest membership (18.2%), followed by religious and church organisations (12.4%). This is higher than membership in politically oriented organisations such as trade unions (8.9%), humanitarian organisations and charities (7.7%), professional associations (6.4%), environmental organisations (2.7%), political parties (2.1%), and consumer organisations (1.1%) (WVS, 2005).
Volunteering is on the rise, mainly as a result of intensive and systematic promotion and development efforts that have recently been supported by government grants, such as a grant for the promotion of voluntary work given by the Ministry of Public Administration in 2009.
Through a CSI case study, Carbon Footprint of Slovenian CSOs, we explored the degree to which CSOs are aware of their own organisational carbon footprint and implement activities to reduce it; the extent to which they encourage their employees to reduce their personal carbon footprints at work and at home; and how they promote carbon footprint awareness in the public arena. A carbon footprint is a measure of how much one’s activities affect the environment and contribute towards climate change, depending on the amount of greenhouse gases one generates daily through dependence on fossil fuels. As part of the case study, three major Slovenian CSOs were interviewed, one working with human rights, one with environmental issues, and one with broader societal issues. None of the CSOs had previously calculated its carbon footprint, as this is a relatively new concept introduced in Slovenia only in 2008-2009 through awareness campaigns by Umanotera – The Slovenian Foundation for Sustainable Development (one of Slovenia’s leading CSOs in the field of sustainability).
The case study results showed that all three interviewed CSOs try to implement measures that reduce the organisational carbon footprint (including, for example, saving water and paper, using energy-saving light bulbs and recycling) and, at least indirectly, encourage their employees to implement these measures at work (for example by providing a company bicycle). Concerning travel abroad, the key criteria are still price and time efficiency, so flying is the preferred method of transport. However, the use of on-line communication tools, such as teleconferences is increasing. While none of the three CSOs has a set of formalised rules, the environmental CSO stated that in their view there was no need for this, as they adhere strictly to and implement every value they promote. None of the organisations had a chapter dedicated to internal environmental standards in their respective annual reports.
There are many CSOs that have a specific mandate to promote environmental sustainability on the regional and national levels. Coalitions were also formed to gather organisations working on this issue and those that are dedicated to achieving common goals, such as the Coalition for Volvje Rebro and the Coalition for Sustainable Waste Management. There were also some educational activities concerning natural parks in Slovenia and the EU. The media review confirmed such activities of CSOs and that coalitions for common actions were formed and active, for example, for pointing out the dangers of growing plants with changed genes or protecting the environment when building public motorways. A considerable amount of attention was given to the “NGO Coalition for Energetic Program”, which, according to the media, did not fully manage to achieve its goal, namely to impact the lobby for better national strategy regarding energy.
Responses to the Regional Stakeholder Survey showed that half of respondents (47%) were aware of one or two examples of civil society’s public campaigns dedicated to protecting the environment and 36% were aware of several examples, such as “Eco-schools” and several local cleaning actions. The general opinion is that civil society has a significant (estimated at 54% of regional survey participants) or moderate role (26%) in protecting the environment in Slovenia. Regional stakeholder workshops revealed that these actions are more ad-hoc than systematic. A significant role of CSOs was noticed when organising educational activities and publishing brochures and reports on environmental protection, especially taking into consideration the fact that there is a lack of such content in schools. As a result, civil society has managed to fill this gap, mostly by collecting and distributing information concerning environmental sustainability.
Despite its growth in the recent decades, Turkish citizens remain rather disconnected from the civil society movement. Citizen participation is characterised by a narrow and deep trend where different social groups such as young people, women and ethnic minorities are under-represented. In accordance with this weak description, Civic Engagement received the lowest score (31%) among the five dimensions of the CSI, showing the most need for improvement.
Only 4.5% and 5.3% of the population are members of social and political CSOs respectively, while only 2.5% and 4.2% provide volunteer support to social or political organisations. Donations to CSOs are also rather low in Turkey: according to an international study, only 14% of the public have made a financial donation to a CSO within the last month. The same study places Turkey 134th out of 153 in terms of donations, volunteerism and helping a stranger (CAF, 2010). But despite the narrow citizen participation in Turkey, those that do participate in civil society activities do so rather deeply and intensely. A significant percentage of citizens who are members or volunteers of one CSO are members of or volunteers in at least one other.
In terms of individual activism, the percentage of the population that has undertaken political activism in the past five years (such as signing a petition, joining in boycotts, attending peaceful demonstrations) is 11.6% (WVS, 1999). Studies show that only 14% of citizens have written a letter of complaint, 9% have joined a demonstration, 7% have participated in a boycott and 3% have participated in an on-line campaign (Arı-Đnfakto, 2006).
In terms of the extent of civic participation, volunteering appears to attract the smallest part of the population. Studies suggest the relatively small size of the population of retirees in good health and high socio-economic status to be a major reason behind this trend (Đnsel, 2004). Furthermore, individual activism appears to be the most widespread form of civic engagement.
The extent of civic engagement seems to have improved over the years. Numbers of association members have gone up from 4,326,248 in 2005 to 6,811,147 in 2008, showing a 63.5% increase (DoA, 2008). However, a large majority (87%) of CSOs find citizen participation levels insufficient and place the lack of participation second among their most pressing problems (YADA, 2010), approving the need for increased capacity and support in this area.
Regional consultation meeting participants stated that many CSOs were environmentally sensitive and paid special attention to recycling and not wasting natural resources, even though they may not have written policies on the subject.
A number of civil society activities in this area can be detected. Broad-based support and / or public visibility of such initiatives, however, are lacking. Many stakeholders support the notion that the environmental CSO movement in Turkey is quite strong and in many ways has contributed to the development of the sector overall. They do also tend to be more organized (in terms of networks and platforms at the national and regional level) and have perhaps been one of the first CSO groups to engage in advocacy activities and legislative reforms.
The CSI survey concludes that respondents agree with this; since their activity in promoting environmental sustainability was perceived to be strongest among all other values in this dimension. 37% of CSI survey respondents could think of one or two examples and 43% could name several (see Table III.3.1). Respondents attributed a limited role (supported by 40%) or a significant role (41%) to actions that promote environmental sustainability. Stakeholders provided a number of examples such as tree-planting, activist environmental CSOs’ campaigns regarding both national and regional Turkish issues (Bergama campaign, anti-nuclear power plant campaigns) as well as international issues (e.g. the Kyoto protocol). The CSI media analysis also yielded the highest number of news items regarding activities in this area (total of 72 items).
Focus group discussions suggested the need for closer connection of environmental groups to citizens and promoting overall respect for the environment rather than only advocate for better laws or engage in activities to help the environment.
This project strived to unite the most active representatives of local communities around professional and institutionally developed non-governmental organizations working in the sphere of community development. During project implementation, mechanisms of delegating certain functions and authorities of local governments to non-governmental organizations were developed. These functions and authorities were mainly related to the development and implementation of community strategies and development projects and programs. Activities of non-governmental organizations and their network are aimed to take some of these delegated functions and become hubs of innovation, which then became a model for replication in other communities, since the established network would have sufficiently strong informational, methodological, and qualified human resources. Non-governmental organizations, members of the network, also play the role of business development support centres and provide local businesses with information, consultation, legal, training and resource services (i.e. access to computers and Internet, email, etc.). As the network became established, more non-governmental organizations joined it, which drastically increased the percentage of citizens involved to the decision-making in the community and capable of implement and protect their civic rights and freedoms.
This project strived to resolve the following problems:
- low level of citizen engagement in the development and implementation of community strategies
- insufficient institutional capacity of non-governmental organizations as representatives of the most active sectors of the community. This particularly relates to non-governmental organizations working in the areas of community development;
- lack of community resource mobilization.
The structure of civil society in Ukraine is characterised by rather high levels of non-partisan political action and voluntary participation. Ukrainians prefer giving and volunteering outside of organised structures. Membership in CSOs is very low (17%), while significant numbers of people participate in informal movements and meetings. The tendency of informal participation preference by Ukrainians is also observed by Ukrainian sociologists (Stepanenko, 2005). However, it is important to note that a significant number of CSO members (41%) participate at least in two CSOs. Thus, whereas the extent of people’s participation is not broad and well structured, it is characterised by rather significant depth and quality. Also, volunteering (non paid work) for public benefit is a commonly performed act by Ukrainians, and CSOs report high levels of human potential, which are mostly volunteers.
Thus, the structure of civil society in Ukraine is characterised by deep rooted and massive energy for civic participation, which has the tendency to spontaneous and informal action, as shown by the events around the 2004 Presidential elections. Civil society’s organised structures are not attractive for Ukrainians, since they are not well-structured and often have significant capacity problems inhibiting their ability to provide an effective platform for people’s participation in civil society.
Civil society is considered to be a prime force behind environmental protection activities in Ukraine. At the national level, the All- Ukrainian Ecological League (AUEL) has played a major role in stimulating a dialogue on environmental issues—including parliamentary hearings. The Coalition for Energy Safety, Awareness and Civil Rights, which now unites 28 organisations, has been actively engaged in issues of energy and environmental policy since November 1998. Oblast AUEL organisations cooperate closely with local self-governments bodies. Other environmental CSOs involved at the national level include the National Ecological Center of Ukraine, the All-Ukrainian Ecological League, the All-Ukrainian Children’s Association “Ecological Guard”, the Ukrainian Ecological Association “Green World”, the All-Ukrainian Charitable Foundation “Parostok”, “Geoeko – XXI,” and the Ukrainian Environmental Protection Association (UNDP, 2001).
The majority of RSC respondents thinks very positively about civil society actions in environment field. Only 8% of respondents do not present any examples of civil society public campaigns, actions or programs dedicated to protecting the environment. The following examples were given – program “Clean streams”, “Let’s clean our house”, Mariupol ecological initiatives, Initiative to increase quality of fresh water in Berdyansk, actions of Green World, etc. Only 11% of respondents think that overall role of civil society in protecting the environment is insignificant and 25% assess it as significant, the rest respondents see such role either limited or moderate. Thus, Ukrainian civil society is very active in protecting environment and this activity receives wide public support.
Countries with NO information on citizen participation: Malta
Countries with little information on citizen participation: Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Lithuania
The civil society in Bangladesh is not hyperactive and relentlessly rent seeking, trying to penetrate the state. Civil society organizations are also not alienated from the state and the interest groups do not have the power or objectives to substitute the political parties. Rather the state and political forces have emerged as the most powerful actors. In spite of a clientelistic, kinship-based social setting, there is a vibrancy of social organizations most of which may be considered as civil society organizations from a broad definition. These organizations are mainly local based and welfare oriented. However, contribution of civil society in democratic consolidation is hardly observed. Though they have strong presence in the service providing sector and social welfare, civil society organizations have been found to be rather weak and ineffective in relation to politics, policy making and democracy. The important role by civil society may not be denied in different movements for democracy before and after independence in 1971; however, in the day to day life, influence of civil society in government policy and protecting and representing people’s interest and rights can hardly be observed.
CSOs developed at the community level are mostly concerned with the local problems of the area. In developing countries poverty is one of the biggest problems; naturally most organizations are concerned on welfare and economic empowerment. Financial assurance from donors, lead to more civil society organization and better nongovernmental services which is ultimately thought to bring better citizenry and more participation in political decision making. Such participation related goals often remain unrealized. In case of Bangladesh too, large number of civil society organizations active at local and meso levels is mostly concerned with social welfare and poverty alleviation. Majority of CSOs are engaged in service related functions than advocacy and other participation related matters. In spite of its vibrant nature, civil society is mobilized at a very low rate towards political and democracy related matters.
Government policies and laws also provide necessary legal framework for NGOs and other social
welfare groups to register and function easily. Bangladesh ranks among the top Asian countries in terms of intensity of NGO activities.
Group based credit activities and large size of social welfare organizations; clubs etc. in Bangladesh indicates the rich abundance of social capital generated through horizontal membership. Moreover, there are numerous registered and unregistered regional groups and clubs. The NGOs that are registered with the NGO Affairs Bureau are large and medium size NGOs that have national coverage or at least cover a particular region of the country. These NGOs in each union8 organize the formation of hundreds of groups made of 20 to 50 members among their beneficiaries for providing services. The number will proliferate if unregistered and informal organizations are included. At all social levels and classes among different sections of the civil society the tendency to form a group or small organization is very common in Bangladesh.
So from the point of view of international acknowledgment of the performance of NGOs and statistics of large number of different social organizations as well as comparison with other countries indicate rather a vibrant image of the civil society in Bangladesh. Conversely, performance of the civil society from the aspects of politics and democracy is rather insignificant.
CSOs concentrate their policy interest mainly on a set of overlapping policies like poverty alleviation (72%), social welfare (59%), rural development (59%), health care (25%), and education (47%) that is mostly related to their service providing projects. But other important policies that also relates to development but require advocacies and more negotiation with the authorities, attract the CSOs relatively in a low scale like, environment (8%), Human rights (19%), Law and order (6%), Labor policy (6% ), consumer protection (5%) etc.
CSOs working at the national level and NGOs receiving foreign-assistance may be well equipped with handsome budgets and skilled employees; but it is the small local groups, not receiving foreign assistance that are rich in spirited volunteers.
The conclusions presented below were taken from the CIVICUS Civil Society Index Report for Orissa, one of the Indian states, due to lack of better data at national level, but they can be extrapolated to the whole country.
The structure dimension of civil society in Orissa is a weaker dimension than are the external environment and values dimensions. The factors responsible for structure being a weak dimension are 1) lack of collective community action for any common social concern, 2) more charitable giving for religious and spiritual purposes than social purposes, 3) voluntarism for personal reasons rather than for common social cause, and 4) lack of representation of all social groups in both membership and leadership. In addition, the inadequate financial and technological resources of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Orissa are daunting factors that make the structure of the civil society weak.
The external environment in which civil society operates is found to be quite enabling with respect to factors like political rights, civil liberties and press freedom. However, certain factors like corruption, deteriorating rule of law, indifferent attitude of business organisations, socio-economic environment, and low levels of trust and public spiritedness among the people have a debilitating impact. Despite its facilitating features, the detrimental factors lead to an environment that is only moderately supportive.
The values dimension of civil society in Orissa shares the highest score with the environment dimension. Factors like tolerance, non-violence and environment protection strongly dominate the civil society characteristics. Some major issues of concern, however, are corruption, gender inequity and lack of transparency within the civil society arena. All these concerns justify an average score of 1.5 for the values dimension.
A weak structure, an only partially enabling external environment, and modest values score lead to a low level of impact as reflected in the Diamond. There are many areas of concern within the impact dimension of the civil society, such as low level of capacity-building initiatives, inadequate efforts of lobbying for social service provisions, lack of efforts in influencing public policies and making the state and business organisations responsible and accountable.
Continued efforts for sustainable development: The past few decades have witnessed continued efforts by civil society actors concerning issues of sustainable development. Activism with respect to environmental protection or protests against setting up of mineralbased industries is on the rise. Issues of protection of natural resources like lakes, mountains and minerals have been a priority for civil society. Such concerns are combined with other crucial issues like the displacement of people. This vigilant stance of civil society has caused the state government to bring about commendable changes in its Resettlement and Rehabilitation policy, as well as to take cautious steps regarding setting up of mineral-based industries.
A cash-strapped economy, yet a highly charitable community: Orissa is one of the most underdeveloped states in India. A state where every second person lives below the poverty line, it is interesting to note that 79% of the sample population supports charity and this is surely an encouraging indicator. A higher percentage of urban population supports charity as compared to the semi-urban and rural areas.
Nearly 79% of the people in Orissa are involved in charitable giving. Charitable giving is found to have a deeper linkage to religious and spiritual purposes here than to social purposes. The NAG members also agreed with this observation. People do not hesitate to contribute to events like the construction of a temple or the organisation of religious functions. They also donate both cash and in kind to the people affected by natural disasters. Many people help their fellow community members and distressed people in their neighbourhood during times of emergency.
A recent survey by PRIA (Tandon & Srivastava 2002) suggests that rural India is a better performer with regard to charitable giving than urban India. PRIA findings reveal that in India, more than 75 million households or nearly 40.7% of the total households donate to charitable causes. Out of this, 68% live in rural areas. On the contrary, the CSS findings in Orissa suggest that urban households in Orissa make more charitable contributions than semi-urban or rural Orissa. While 96% of people in the urban areas donate for charitable purposes, the corresponding figures for semi-urban and rural areas are 89% and 56% respectively. This may be due to the extreme poverty in rural areas of the state. Here it can be noted that the percentage of urban poor among the total poor in Orissa is just 9.7%, the lowest among all major states in India except Assam (OHDR, 2004).
Community survey findings suggest that nearly 57% of people in Orissa are associated with at least one CSO. As far as the extent of participation in the CSOs is concerned, findings from the CSS indicate that religious organisations (22.13%) have the highest community participation followed by cooperatives (16.94%) and neighbourhood/village committees (15%). Education groups (9.32%), cultural groups (7.97%), NGOs/civic groups/human rights organisations (6.18%), women’s groups and youth groups (5.47%) also have a fair level of people’s participation.
Voluntary action is an inherent characteristic found in the social tradition of Orissa. It is observed in both organised and unorganised forms in rural and urban Orissa. Generally, voluntary action for any social cause has more of a rural than urban face in India. This is particularly so in Orissa due to its predominantly agrarian economic character, which fosters traditional family set-ups and value systems of share and care. Urban Orissa, on the other hand, does not have a large base of informal voluntarism, as people are more individualistic and self-oriented. Some organised efforts, however, in the form of youth clubs, socio-cultural associations, and sports clubs are present. As indicated above, the government has taken some initiatives to set up organisations such as NCC, NSS and NYKS among others to promote organised volunteerism among the youth. CSOs often organise health camps, blood donation camps etc., which require the active participation of community members. People’s response to volunteering was found to be quite encouraging, according to the community survey. More than 90% of the respondents remarked that they had volunteered for some cause, such as helping neighbours or helping a needy person.
However, over the years Orissa has experienced a decline in the volunteering culture with respect to the education system, the traditional healthcare system, and others. With the government providing all such facilities, people have become increasingly dependent on government provisions while shedding their voluntarism. Now that the government is withdrawing itself from its welfare role, the private sector has come forward to provide basic services, such as education and healthcare. As a result, the society is experiencing privatisation of its education and healthcare system. While privatisation of basic services is perceived to be more efficient, it has influenced the further decrease in the volunteering spirit of the community.
Collective community action in Orissa, like voluntarism, is deeply rooted in its culture of sharing ideas, skills, time, energy and resources for a common cause or concern. People for generations have solved various common problems or have taken up community activities with a collective and cooperative spirit. Various social functions and customs are designed in such a way that they require a lot of cooperation and collective effort. For example, family functions like marriage are not celebrated only by a particular family. The entire neighbourhood and even the whole village become involved. The Same spirit is found in the participation of other social functions including funerals and emergencies. Though rapid urbanization and increasing orientation towards nuclear-family norms have underplayed this attitude, volunteering is still in practice with a degree of success in many parts of the state. Of late, both rural and urban Orissa have seen an upsurge of cultural events, like the elaborate celebration of different socio-religious festivals with youth committees taking the lead in organising the events.
The contribution of civil society towards environmental protection is assessed from the perspective of the activities undertaken so far and the current role that the civil society plays. There is a clear dichotomy in the perception of respondents in the RSCs towards civil society’s action in environment protection in the last year. While 43% of the respondents feel that there are only one or two examples of environmental protection activities, another 43% respond that there are several examples. The assessment of current CSO involvement in the same activities also evokes a somewhat mixed observation – 32% feel that it was significant, while almost the same percentage think it moderate. Thirty-three percent (33%) report that such activities are limited.
The Media review reveals that 50% of the reports mention environmental awareness campaigns and plantation activities by various CSOs. The involvement of government promoted organisations like NCC and NSS, and youth associations in sanitation activities has been significant. Public interest litigations filed by a women’s self-help group federation in Sundergarh district and a demonstration by 2000 people for the protection of Mahendragiri hills against mining are news items that indicate a high degree of civil society involvement in issues relating to environment protection. In addition, the secondary data review shows that movements aimed at the protection of the environment are very persuasive and effective, because in many of the cases, environment protection is closely associated to people’s livelihood and welfare. Many examples of the kinds of environment protection activities undertaken by civil society are shown in the box below.
Donating for a common purpose has long been popular in Nepalese society. Urban people donate more than rural people because the income of the rural areas is comparatively low, mostly because of the vagaries of the traditional agriculture system (Tewa 1999). In the population survey, 68% of respondents were involved in charitable activities on a regular basis.
There is no previous concrete study regarding the percentage of people involved with CSOs in Nepal. However, for the last few years, in conjunction with the downsizing of the state, people in all spheres of life have been attracted towards such CSOs.
As Nepal is an agrarian country, 14% of the respondents were found to be involved in farmer or fisherman groups or cooperatives. One percent of respondents were found to be involved in the cooperative/credit or saving group, which is the burning issue in the present context that mainly focuses on income generation. Overall, according to the community sample survey, 55% of respondents are members of at least one CSO.
Besides those who are full members of CSOs (that is, those who are paid-up members), most individuals participate in CSOs by donating money, or contributing their spare time to CSOs’ activities.
Most people in the rural areas participate in community level volunteer activities. Engaging in community work is less common among urban Nepali people. Volunteerism in Nepal is mainly divided into mutual aid and self-help, philanthropy, service to others, participation in self-governance and campaign advocacy. It is said that the Nepalese are materially poor but rich in spirit from the ancient period digging a spring or well, constructing a fountain or waterspout, building and maintaining a shady trailside resting place (Chautaaro) or an overnight rest house (paati pauwa) for passing travellers, and contributing their free labour to public works.
The population survey shows that volunteer services are provided in sectors such as training, labour, social, economic and intellectual cooperation, economic and physical help to those experiencing social difficulties, help for poor people, providing awareness programmes, offering financial support through savings programmes, or running adult literacy classes.
The community survey indicated that 93% of people volunteer in the various sectors. The survey findings also reflect that rural people prefer to volunteer by providing labour rather than contributing cash. Further, utilitarian motivation is strong among urban classes because they volunteer in the sectors like training, social, economical and intellectual cooperation, running adult literacy groups, for example, so that they can contribute in the social sectors as well as maintain their livelihoods.
The community survey reveals that 47% of people have attended community meeting once, 23% several times and 10% many times in the previous 12 months. Overall 86% of respondents have participated in a collective action within the last year.
Some of the laws such as the Environmental Impact Assessment Law (1996) have made public participation a mandatory step. Similarly, the Local Self Governance Act (1999) places emphasis on public participation for community level activities.
The community survey shows that the average donation is Rs. 1,848.9 (US $26.41) per year. The survey also indicates that the extent of charitable giving is correlated to the socio-economic background of the giver and the location. According to the community sample data, the average donation of personal income is 2% per year.
Volunteering in Nepal has a long tradition, with people participating in various activities such as environmental activities and educational development. According to the community sample survey, respondents spend an average of 15 hours per month in various forms of volunteering.
There is a high degree of willingness to join CSOs. In rural communities, the majority of the people are associated with CSOs such as the community forestry groups. The population survey reflects that overall, 22% of CSO members belong to more than one civil society organisation.
3.7.1 CS actions to sustain the environment. Because of its rich biological and cultural diversity, Nepal until recently was referred to a “Shangrila”. A consequence of this has been a significant tourism industry as one of the main areas of economic development. In the last few years there has also been impressive growth in community forestry.
CSOs and conservation groups have prioritised environmental awareness and conservation activities. CSOs are involved in educating high school students throughout the country about a wide range of environmental issues, and advocacy groups have begun to increase awareness through public meetings about urban pollution issues arising from emissions from vehicles and industries like brick kilns (HMG, 2002).
The regional stakeholders' consultations show that 27% of the respondents can cite one or two examples of civil society public campaigns, actions or programmes dedicated to protecting the environment while 37% cite many examples regarding this matter. A few examples are as follows:
· Awareness of the need for environmental protection
· Forest conservation and reward system
· Tree plantation and environmental pollution control, and
· Forest preservation and community forest users group.
The media review also reflects a similar trend with a fairly high coverage of articles on environmental concerns, including CS actions to promote environmental sustainability.
Having reviewed a number of databases and surveys, we would estimate that there are around 10000 to 12 000 active and registered NGOs in Pakistan, the bulk of them (59 percent) in Punjab province followed by Sindh and NWFP. If non-registered organisations are added to those registered (active) under the six laws, the number, according to reliable government sources, could be anywhere around 60 000.
In terms of thematic focus, with multiple areas of focus included, education (including basic, primary, adult and informal) represents 56 percent of the total, with health and women’s development accounting for 39 percent each. Other areas of focus include early childhood development (15.2 percent), sports promotion and recreation (12.3 percent) and community development (12 percent). Intermediary NGOs and support organisations are also most actively engaged in education (69 percent); and women’s issues (56 percent).
Volunteerism has traditionally been a deep-rooted impulse, encouraged primarily by the religious obligation of helping the poor and the needy. During the colonial period, prominent philanthropists established educational and healthcare charities that were open to all regardless of caste, creed or colour. They left behind a legacy that was to guide and inspire many a future philanthropist and volunteer. Charity organisations that were set up in Pakistan after partition drew on the historical tradition of providing relief to the needy. While such charity organisations have rendered invaluable services to the poorest of the poor, they have remained dominated by their founding fathers. They are characterised by informal structures and a lack of internal democracy and accountability.
Development-oriented NGOs that sprang up in the country addressed the problems faced by the millions of citizens that had been bypassed by economic development. While the impact of citizens’ initiatives for development and poverty reduction might be debated, they have consistently addressed the needs of marginalised communities in the cities as well as the rural areas. Many of them have opposed the diversion of scarce state resources towards conventional and nuclear defence regimes at the expense of human development. The fact that such CSOs are still few in number and their limited impact could be some possible reasons for the fact that civil society informants were divided in their opinion about the role of CSOs in promoting sustainable development.