In 2009, NGOs across Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia were at the forefront of the issues facing their societies, from elections to discrimination to environmental degradation, according to a new study released by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This study, released on July 30, is the 13th edition of the NGO Sustainability Index, a key analytical tool that measures the progress of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in this region.
NGOs have persevered in their efforts to raise public awareness, advocate for policy change, and deliver needed services, often in the face of formidable obstacles.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton toured the region in early July to highlight the important role that civil society organizations have played in democratic development. At the Community of Democracies in Krakow, she cited, “societies move forward when the citizens that make up these groups are empowered to transform common interests into common actions that serve the common good.”
USAID tracks the progress of the NGO sector in 29 countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Contained in the 13-year collection is a historical record that provides substantial data on each country. Differences between the countries surveyed in this report are great, but the challenges facing NGOs are often surprisingly similar. NGOs from Latvia to Tajikistan strove to improve internal governance, to raise their visibility in the media, and to secure stable sources of funding. NGOs experienced government pressure and criticism in countries as diverse as Moldova, Montenegro, Slovakia and Belarus. The NGO Sustainability Index examines these and other key events and developments that affected the region’s NGOs during the year.
Two articles in the Index highlight trends that significantly affect NGO sustainability in the region. In “The Quiet Revolution: How technology is changing the civil society landscape in Eastern Europe and Eurasia,” Ari Katz explores how NGOs are using different types of technology to advance their mission while Joerg Forbrig delves into the effects – both negative and positive – of the economic crisis in “Never waste a good crisis: The 2008 economic downturn and post-communist civil society.”
The NGO Sustainability Index examines the overall enabling environment for civil society, focusing on seven dimensions: legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, infrastructure, and public image. Each country report provides an in-depth analysis of the NGO sector along with comparative information regarding prior years’ dimension scores, which are encapsulated in easy-to-read charts. Dimension scores for 1997-2009 are summarized in Annex A. The full report can be found on USAID’s Europe and Eurasia Website, http://www.usaid.gov/locations/europe_eurasia/dem_gov/ngoindex/2009.
USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe & Eurasia, Jonathan Hale noted, “A strong civil society is critical to effectively tackling a range of challenges from fighting global disease to strengthening government accountability. We are pleased to be able to offer this tool to our partners to highlight progress in civil society development in the region.”