ECNL collaborates with local partners to create regulation and increase understanding of adopted policies and laws, which ensure effective and progressive implementation of these policies and laws. Importantly, ECNL helps to develop tools and mechanisms for monitoring implementation , which, as the result, identify the areas for further needed assistance and help partners design reform and advocacy approaches.
Monitoring Framework in the Eastern Partnership
The countries of the Eastern Partnership face numerous challenges in expanding civic space for citizens’ initiatives and civil society, as such. Increasingly, civil society organisations (CSOs) become more aware about the need to apply a common approach in monitoring the environment in which they operate – both in terms of law and practice.
To support their efforts, the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL) and its partners: Transparency International Armenia; MG Consulting LLC in Azerbaijan; Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs in collaboration with Legal Transformation Center from Belarus; Civil Society Institute from Georgia; Promo-LEX Association in Moldova; and the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research (UCIPR) launched the process of developing a Monitoring Framework on Enabling Environment for Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership region.
The “Monitoring Progress, Empowering Action” Project will be implemented between 2017-2020, with the support if the European Union. It aims to contribute to improvement of the environment in which CSOs operate, and ensure that an enabling environment exists in partner countries; as well as strengthen CSOs’ capacities to promote evidence-based reform initiatives and increase public accountability across the region. On the country level, the Project will enable local CSOs, donors or other interested parties to monitor and assess the state of the legal environment for civil society, and its implementation in practice. On the regional level, it will allow for cross-country exchanges, formulation of regional priorities and better communication in order to improve civil society conditions.
The core group of legal experts will develop a Monitoring Framework with substantive and comparative expert assistance from ECNL and through consultations and piloting of the tool with the CSOs in their respective countries. The Monitoring Framework will rely on key international, European standards on fundamental rights and civil society space. Based on the applied methodology and findings of the developed Monitoring Framework, the core group will summarise country and regional reports, which will guide local initiatives in bringing positive reform in laws and policies affecting CSOs.
The project “Monitoring Progress, Empowering Action” is implemented with financial support of the European Union.
ECNL has been involved in various initiatives that aims to monitor the enabling environment for civil society. Under ICNL’s Legal Innovation Fund, supported by USAID and PACT, the Monitoring Matrix and Toolkit on Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development was published by the Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN). Developed together with ECNL’s partners in the Balkan region, the Matrix monitors the progress in creating an enabling environment for civil society development and has been designed to respond to the needs of the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey.
The Matrix presents the main principles and standards that have been identified as crucial to exist in order for the legal environment to be considered as supportive and enabling for the operations of CSOs. It underscores the fact that enabling environment is a complex concept, which includes various areas and depends on several factors and phases of development of the society and the civil society sector. The Matrix is organized around three areas, each divided by sub-areas. The main areas are:
- Basic Legal Guarantees of Freedoms
- Framework for CSOs’ Financial Viability and Sustainability
- Government – CSO Relationship
The monitoring methodology and reporting templates support partners in the Balkans to be able to review the country situation and produce harmonized reports in line with the Matrix.
Based on the country reports, ECNL experts elaborated a regional report that identifies common trends and country challenges for advocacy efforts on national, regional and European level.
ECNL provided overall strategic support and expertise to the expert team during the development of the Matrix in methodological and thematic issues. ECNL also brought in a wider international and legal perspective so that the Matrix and the Toolkit can potentially serve civil society communities outside of the Balkans.
Monitoring right to free assembly
In recent years, political turmoil in the Western Balkan region has led to a new era of mass protest – from the so-called “colorful revolution” in Macedonia to Serbia’s election demonstrations in 2017. Similarly, the number and intensity of protests have also increased in the Eastern Partnership region. At the same time, countries have experienced a significant increase in restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly.
During its work in these regions, ECNL found that there was little awareness of this trend, largely due to a lack of systematic monitoring. To fill this gap, together with our local partners in the Western Balkans in 2016 we piloted a research methodology to monitor how this freedom is applied, how it can be protected and advocate for necessary changes. Upon the results of the pilot initiative, we broadened the scope and the regional coverage of our monitoring efforts so that the right to free assembly is better understood and partners’ advocacy efforts are strengthened.