Regional and Global Reflections on CSO Accountability in the Balkans

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On 1st July 2021, BCSDN held a regional workshop on CSO Accountability: “Reflections on the Self-Regulation of Civil Society by Sharing Regional and Global Experiences”. The event was followed by more than 60 CSOs representatives from the Balkans and across the world, who virtually discussed and shared examples of the CSO accountability practices and self-assessment mechanisms. The workshop aimed to raise awareness among CSOs in the region about the key principles, opportunities, and challenges they should consider in developing and implementing self-regulatory mechanisms for being more effective, accountable, and credible.

By introducing BCSDN’s work on CSO Accountability and self-assessment mechanisms, Ms. Biljana Spasovska, BCSDN’s Executive Director, opened the workshop and welcomed all regional participants into the joint discussion and lessons learnt that could serve organizations’ accountable and transparent work in the future.

Recalling on Global Standard and Accountable Now experience, Ms. Ilina Neshikj, Interim Executive Director at Accountable Now, shared positive examples of self-regulation practices from across the world, pointing how these processes affect CSO accountable work. In her presentation, Ms. Neshikj emphasized the importance of the self-regulation mechanisms and the broader conversation about civil society effectiveness and resilience, taking into account the common challenges, such as the shrinking civic space, lack of trust for and from civil society; the politicization of human rights, and non-profit organisations; the power-shift; the misuse of power, the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, etc. 

Ms. Tanja Hafner Ademi, Team Leader at the EU TACSO 3 project, discussed how CSOs’ efforts on accountability, self-regulation, and transparency have been addressed and brought into the Guidelines for EU Support to Civil Society in Enlargement Region, 2021-2027. She has specified how the document is embracing the new developments from the Global Standard and bringing the understanding for civil society to be capacitated and resilient. Regarding TACSO efforts towards strengthening civil society accountability in the region, Ms. Hafner-Ademi exampled some of the past EU TACSO 3 accomplished trainings and exchanges and highlighted their commitment to continue supporting  CSOs’ capacity development in the future.

The second part of the workshop was devoted to stories on creating and institutionalizing the self-assessment mechanisms in Albania and N. Macedonia. Practical examples of how self-regulation mechanisms can improve the quality of social services provided by CSOs were also provided.

 Ms. Ariola Agoli, National Resource Centre Manager at Partners Albania for Change and Development shared the organization’s experience in drafting the Code for the Albanian CSOs. Reflecting on the participatory process of preparing and delivering the Code, Ms. Agoli covered specific issues regarding the process, such as its principles and the commitments, the implementing structure, the promotion of the initiative, and the challenges and lessons learned. Some of the main difficulties reflected were the diverse CSOs’ commitments and involvement in the process, lack of NPOs’ human resources and knowledge on the self-assessment tools, the Covid-19 crisis, etc.

Ms. Aleksandra Savevska, Project Officer at the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC), provided an overview of how the developments have been going regarding the self-assessment mechanisms in N.Macedonia. Discussing how to foster a culture of accountability in creating the Code of Ethics for the Macedonian CSOs, Ms. Savevska highlighted that accountability is continuously evolving and is an ongoing learning process through which the civil society will more effectively achieve its goals and mission. She also discussed the challenges and the ways forward, focusing on the complementarity with other initiatives, the gradual implementation, and the need for continuous improvement and revisions.

As a last speaker of the event, Ms. Maria Marinakou, Project Team Leader at Eptisa, reflected how self-assessment mechanisms could improve the quality of social services provided by the CSOs. Besides the global dimensions regarding the self-assessment mechanisms, Ms. Marinakou also focuses on the Macedonian context as a parallel process, reflecting how these processes create synergies, convergence, and complementarity. She particularly emphasized that CSOs accountability is related to the self-commitment in legal and reporting requirements that come from external contexts and stakeholders, but it is also related to the challenges to demonstrate accountability to the people, especially the poor and marginalized as constituencies for which CSOs work.

The event concluded with final reflections on both the Albanian and the Macedonian context about the need for civil society incentives in the self-regulation processes. It was emphasized that these processes are a timely and costly exercise that requires knowledge, support, and recognition on a national or international level.

Watch the full video of the workshop here.

* This activity was part of the Third Extension phase of the Global Standard project: “Towards strengthened accountability practices in the Western Balkans”. The event was organized in partnership with BCSDN’s members Partners Albania for Change and Development and the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC), as part of MCIC EU-funded program “Sustainable Civil Society – State Funding of Civil Society Organizations”.

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