REPORT: Monitoring Matrix Regional Report 2020: Narrowing of the Civic Space in the Western Balkans in Times of Crisis

– Report published by BCSDN on 6 July 2021, available here.

BCSDN has published the 2020 edition of the Monitoring Matrix Regional Report on Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development in the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia).

Exacerbated by the political and economic circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has been marked by profound challenges for the state and the functioning of the civil society in the Western Balkans. The report reflects on worrisome trends in several countries in narrowing civic space in the region, and very few legal changes introduced to improve the enabling environment for civil society development in the Western Balkans.

According to the findings for 2020, severe restrictions and violations were imposed against the freedom of assembly and expression. The public funding has further decreased due to the cancelling or postponement of planned calls for proposals and the redirection of funds to crisis relief. CSOs were not properly included in the crisis management bodies, and they lacked relevant acknowledgment for their actions from the governments. Problematic anti-money laundering legislation may cause registration difficulties and intimidate CSO operations. Because of the lack of tax incentives, individual and corporate giving is insufficiently practiced towards the civil sector. CSOs are still faced with the lack of public funding and issues concerning transparency of its planning and distribution. The region still faces unstimulating employment and volunteering policies. The effectiveness and functioning of the mechanisms for cooperation have been unsatisfactory, as well. Despite having a vital role in providing social services for a wide range of beneficiaries and protection for vulnerable groups, CSOs are not properly incorporated in the cycle of service development and provision.

Following previous MM reports, the report again offers specific recommendations for the national governments, but introduces recommendations for other stakeholders too – civil society, donors and recommendations regarding the EU integration process.

Read more and download the report here.