Fifteen civil society organizations that are part of the Council for Cooperation between the Government and Civil Society, as elected representatives of the civil society sector, have expressed strong revolt against the attitude of the Government towards the Council and towards civil society in general. In an open letter sent to the President of the Government, Mr. Dimitar Kovachevski, they demanded Mr. Kovachevski to meet with representatives of civil society organizations from the Council and at the meeting to clarify the Government’s policy towards civil society, to reach an agreement on previously raised problematic issues and to truly renew the dialogue that was established in the past years. Below is the full letter, translated into English.
“We, the members of the Council for Cooperation representing civil society organizations, state that in the past year, the work of the Council was made impossible by the government’s ignoring of its key recommendations and conclusions, which is its basic competence as an advisory body to the Government. Several attempts to establish direct communication and organize a meeting with the President of the Government and governmnet representatives, with the aim to discuss essential issues affecting the functioning of civil society, have so far been left unanswered.
We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating cooperation, and the absence of substantive and even formal communication and dialogue. The functioning of the civil society is a key indicator of the democratic climate in the country, and when this is threatened, the progress of the country is called into question, as well as its accession to the European Union. In the past period, and even now, we highlight the following issues as challenges:
- Amendments and additions to the Law on Associations and Foundations were adopted without a consultative process of stakeholders, especially the Council for Cooperation and CSOs in general. Appreciating that there is an active working group for amendments and additions to this Law, it was at least expected from the Government to open the consultative process through a public discussion in the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia;
- In the past year, the Government both formally and fundamentally violated the institutional arrangement with the abolition of the funds intended to support the activities of the civil sector through the General Secretariat of the Government and, without consultation, determined the Ministry of Political System and Inter-Community Relations as the competent ministry for the distribution of the funds to support CSOs. With this way of acting, the Ministry of Political System and Inter-Community Relations went completely beyond the scope of its competencies, which is determined by the national legal framework. This was pointed out several times by the Council for Cooperation, but the Government and the Ministry completely ignored the position of this body;
- The process regarding the state funding reform, despite all efforts, was not realized in 2022, and in addition, instead of planning an increase in state funding, CSOs faced a reduction of funds on various grounds. This is completely contrary to the Government’s Strategy for cooperation with and development of civil society, according to which an increase in the amount of state funding of CSOs is decisively foreseen;
- The government closed the consultative process for the Reform of the State Administration, which violated the basic postulates of cooperation with stakeholders. This process, which represents a complete and comprehensive reform of the state bodies, despite the several demands of the Council and civil society in general, continues to be conducted only within the ministries.
In addition, several civil society organizations report that the space for the work of associations and foundations has been significantly narrowed, and communication with several ministries has deteriorated to a worrying extent, which is also stated in several reports on the enabling environment of civil society organizations.
Considering all of the above, it is obvious that the Government is not working to achieve the goals of the Strategy for Cooperation with and Development of Civil Society 2022-2024 and is not implementing the action plan of this Strategy. At the same time, given the disrupted work of the Council, the system for monitoring the fulfillment of the Government’s obligations from this strategy, for which the Council has a mandate, does not work either.
Valuing the irreplaceable contribution of the civil society to the progress of the country and the support that this sector provides on the path of North Macedonia’s integration into the European Union, the members of the Council representing civil society expect that the Prime Minister and the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia will demonstrate constructiveness and preservation of the basic democratic values that we stand for as a state, with which the work of an entire sector in this society will not be called into question. For this purpose, in addition to this public address, a new request for a meeting has been submitted to the office of the President of the Government, as well as to the President of the State, relevant committees of the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia and the Ambassador of the European Union in the Republic of North Macedonia.”
The full letter, in Macedonian language, is available at the following link: https://mcms.mk/mk/vesti-i-javnost/vesti/2443-gragjanskiot-sektor-alarmira-za-odnosot-na-vladata-kon-gragjanskoto-opshtestvo.html