BCSDN, as part of AGNA and the Global Standard for CSO Accountability, is celebrating the Global Accountability Week (GAW) from 12-16 October 2020, to promote civil society accountability by presenting CSO accountability initiatives across the world, and to improve the understanding of the dynamic accountability. On the second day of the GAW, 13 October, BCSDN led a session on CSO Accountability in times of COVID 19.
The introductory and welcoming remarks were provided by Biljana Spasovska, the Executive Officer, and Marija Vishinova, the Communications and Information Officer at BCSDN. The event was followed by more than 35 CSO international representatives, who had an opportunity to learn more on the topic of CSO accountability during the crisis, by following the four presentations and discussions. Clarisa Piccione (RACI) Harsh Jaitli (VANI), Klotilda Tavani Kosta (Partners Albania), and Aleksandra Savevska (Macedonian Center for International Cooperation) presented the stories of CSOs resilience amid COVID 19 from Argentina and India to the Balkans. During the discussion, the speakers answered the main challenges that the organizations experienced in keeping accountable amid the COVID-19 pandemic and how accountability practices/creative solutions were discovered/put in place due to the pandemic.
On the informal gathering and experience shared, it was emphasized that in times of COVID 19 pandemic, CSOs learned that have to be transparent in the decision-making process, to communicate clearly with stakeholders, to adapt their activities in a more accountable way, and to adjust to the digital approaches. They have also shared examples from the local community where the CSOs, due to the COVID-19 situation, and the ongoing challenges, were obliged to shift their work online, discovering new places to continue with their ongoing activities, to get closer, and to provide help and services to their beneficiaries and the most vulnerable categories in the society. CSOs have immediately adapted their programs to address the changing needs in crisis times, being a reliable and trustworthy partner to citizens.
On the event, it was concluded that in times of crisis, despite the Governments’ restrictions and limited space of their groundwork, CSOs continued to guarantee human rights and civic freedoms. The trend of shrinking civic space is ongoing in 2020, considering that the COVID-19 health crisis is being used to gain political control, putting many civic space dimensions under threat. The fight against the pandemic is also testing the civic space of all countries. The Governments are imposing the strictest measures to curb the pandemic, even restricting some of the guaranteed human rights, especially the freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. In such a way, despite providing services and being involved in advocacy campaigns, through their monitoring and watchdog activities, CSOs continued to promote their own and internal accountability practices and testify on the Governments’ accountability in the whole process, as well.
The event concluded that CSOs should remain focused on the people they serve and support them in this period of crisis; they should communicate with all the relevant stakeholders, continue with their monitoring, and advocacy efforts to cope with the future challenges that the crisis may bring. Eventually, there is a need for civil society organizations to communicate better the work they are performing, adding to their relevance and visibility, especially for promoting civic space and CSOs’ value.