The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) presented the 20th edition of their Civil Society Organization (CSO) Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, covering developments in 2016. The report addresses CSO sectors in the twenty-four countries that continue to be highly diverse in 2016, spanning the full spectrum of sustainability.
Macedonia is one of the few countries that have received much attention due to the backsliding over the past few years that has threatened the sustainability of civil society. More so, Macedonia has also been marked a country whereby CSOs have been affected by the political and economic context and had to respond to numerous societal developments. CSOs criticizing government policies and activists were subject to increasing state harassment. At the same time public attacks, hate speech, and smear campaigns against critical CSOs and activists by pro-government media became more frequent and direct during the year. That notwithstanding, according to the report, Macedonian CSOs and activists have learned how to adapt to the reduced civic space and have found new way to advocate, mobilize people and raise funds – the so called Colorful Revolution has been considered key tool to bring both the public’s and policymaker’s attention to issues of public concern. The #Protestiram (I Protest) movement organized mass protests demanding elections be postponed until conditions assuring free and fair elections could be put in place, among other demands. Elections were finally held in December. Simultaneously, CSO volunteers and activists continued to support stranded migrants and refugees at the country’s borders with Greece and Serbia by monitoring the situation and ensuring support services.
The index measures both advances and setbacks in seven key components or “dimensions” of the sustainability of the civil society sector: legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, infrastructure, and public image. The rating of the overall CSO Sustainability Index for Macedonia remained the same as in 2015 – 3.9. The scores on the dimensions legal environment, advocacy and public image worsened for 1 point, whereas the scores on financial viability, service provision and infrastructure remained the same. The only improvement that Macedonia has made is related to organizational capacity as a result of the growth in grassroots mobilization.