In the backdrop of stabilization and peacebuilding efforts in the region, the Balkan Civil Society Development Network was established in 2001 as a pilot programme for capacity building, implemented by the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC). The initiative for the Capacity Building Hub Programme was part of a larger initiative called the WCC South-East Europe Ecumenical Partnership. The pilot programme ran till 2003 and aimed at promoting co-ordination and co-operation of churches, ecumenical and civil society organizations through organization of meetings, trainings, and exchange and consultancy visits. In December 2003, the Balkan Civil Society Development Network was launched as an informal network.
External Programme Evaluation 2003, by Martina H. Hunt, INTRAC consultant:
“…a unique regional network with considerable potential to develop and sustain itself in the long term, both through its capacity building offerings and partnership ideology.”
In the period between 2001 and 2008, before the network became formal, the activities included organization of: 14 trainings on EU funding, advocacy, lobbying, fundraising, media and related topics; 29 country exchange visits on volunteering, networking, project development ; 3 EU study visits; 3 workshops, 1 conference and on-the-job training in Brussels for local CSO representatives. A total of 884 representatives of civil society (78 CSOs) in Central and Eastern Europe and SEE countries took part in these activities.
External Programme Evaluation 2003-2007, by INTRACK (UK) and Pokrov Foundation (Bulgaria):
“The Network has made significant contributions to cross-border cooperation and is well positioned to build on further cooperation between members in the future. Accession to the EU, or the prospect of accession, has greatly reduced the overall support to CSOs without presenting immediate alternatives to the “traditional” donors. As a result, the civic sectors in many countries are rapidly shrinking… The Network is alive to this context and is actively seeking new opportunities both for members and for the civic sector as a whole. This has led the Network towards advocacy for a more enabling environment for civil society.”
On 6 July 2009 in Skopje, Macedonia, the network held its Founding assembly and since 30 September 2009 is a legally registered foundation. After becoming a formal entity, the network’s main activity in the period between 2009 and 2011 was focused on advocacy on the civil society support towards EU institutions started. On annual level, BCSDN has been organizing policy workshops in Brussels in order to influence the EU’s policies and funding support for civil society development in Enlargement countries. Several policy documents and analyses have been prepared, including recommendations towards EU institutions and national governments. Since 2012, BCSDN is led by an independent office based on Skopje, Macedonia, with 5 full-time staff members.
EC Ad-hoc Evaluation of CARDS Regional Programmes, December, 2008:
“The programme’s support to the civil society development and networking is likely to have an impact on its wider environment…The programme delivered the potential for development of one of the few successful regional initiatives. This is mostly because this network is an indigenous phenomenon; driven by the problems, needs and priorities of its membership and not necessarily by those of external stakeholders, such as the EC. …and can therefore be considered a contributing element in strengthening the democratic stabilization process.”