Civil society mobilizes across the Europe and Eurasia region and learns to adapt to increasingly restrictive operating environments

21. Aug 2017
Civil society organizations (CSOs) and individuals in Europe and Eurasia are increasingly learning to adapt to constricting civic space by finding new ways to advocate, to mobilize citizens, and to raise funds.

Results from the 2016 CSO Sustainability Index (CSOSI) for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, produced by the U.S. Agency for International Development with partners in each participating country, show that a number of countries, including Hungary, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Macedonia, have experienced democratic backsliding.  This backsliding now threatens both the sustainability of CSOs, and also citizens’ fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression.  From the mass protests in Macedonia to those in Poland, this year’s report shows that public demonstrations continued to be an important tool in 2016 to bring both the public’s and policymakers’ attention to issues of public concern.  CSO sustainability in many countries in the region is increasingly challenged by decreased access to funding and constricting operating space.  On a positive note, this year’s report highlights progress in financial diversification through innovative practices.  As governments restrict access to foreign funding and reduce state funding to CSOs, organizations are increasingly turning to crowdfunding as an alternative source of funding.  In addition, crowdfunding appears to be taking hold in a broader range of issue areas, as CSOs reported some success with fundraising for political and human rights activities in 2016, in addition to the social, environmental, and cultural activities it originally targeted.  In other contexts, however, government restrictions have made it highly difficult for CSOs to operate.  In Azerbaijan, for example, informal surveys indicate that at least two-thirds of CSOs have suspended their activities over the past few years, and surviving CSOs have lost most of their staff due to insufficient funding.

The CSOSI for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia assesses progress in the development of nonprofit, CSOs in 24 countries of the region.  This year’s edition covers developments in civil society during calendar year 2016.  Now in its 20th year, the CSOSI examines the internal and external context and operational capacity of civil society, focusing on the legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, infrastructure, and public image.  The report describes and rates civil society development in each country and across the region as a whole.

Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organisations is pleased to partner with USAID to produce the CSOSI for Estionia.

The full report can be found at: .