Civil society in Moldova is not supported by authorities

The dependence on foreign backers is the most serious problem of Moldovan civil society. The nongovernmental organizations 90% depend on financing from abroad. Even if the state sees a partner for discussions in the NGOs, the authorities do not have developed internal mechanisms for financing and ensuring incomes for public associations. The opinion was stated by the director of the Resource Center for Human Rights (CReDO) Sergiu Ostaf.

Civil Society Strategy suggests solutions

According to Sergiu Ostaf, the Civil Society Strategy for 2012-2015, which was adopted by Parliament, gives answers to the problems faced by civil society. It proposes three definite steps that should be implemented. The first step refers to licensing. When the organizations are licensed to provide certain services, for complying with certain standards for organizing social services, they will gain access to certain financing programs implemented by the public authorities and will compete with the private sector. For the time being, such a modality does not exit, but we hope that it will be created. Another action is to channel a part of the taxes paid by the people (2%) to a certain organization. Every person will be able to direct a part of the tax paid to the state to the organizations that, according to them, perform socially useful and important activities. The third action is the institution of social entrepreneurship for certain groups of people. Thus, the vulnerable persons with disabilities or from socially deprived groups will be able to perform certain activities to generate lower, insignificant incomes, but which are necessary for survival.

Civil society experiences problems in the area of internal financing, but Moldova made considerable progress in ensuring the participation and transparency in decision-making, compared with Ukraine and Russia. “Problems are still encountered here as regards involvement of civil society at local level and, sometimes, at central level. There are situations when the decisions are taken very quickly, without preliminary examination. Many decisions taken by the ministries and local public authorities are not made public. The participation, openness and transparency remain topical problems even if Moldova made visible progress in this respect,” said the CReDO director.

Another problem of civil society in Moldova, according to Sergiu Ostaf, is the passivity of the organizations. They do not become involved in solving their own problems. The participation can be stimulated by giving preference to persons who become involved in volunteer activities. The Civil Society Strategy envisions a mechanism by which the public utility organizations will be able to get involved in volunteer activities, regardless of age and status. “The implementation of the Civil Society Strategy depends a lot on the ministries and the Government, but not much progress was yet made. There is yet a period before it will come into force and we hope that when the political crisis is solved, we will achieve greater results. The strategy creates mechanisms for strengthening civil society and recognizes its role and importance in the process of developing society at different levels,” said Sergiu Ostaf.

The role of civil society is to make people’s voice heard

Sergiu Ostaf stressed that civil society can make the people’s voice heard in crisis situations, including political crises. The NGOs often suggested alternatives, spoke about the reasons that generated the political crisis and offered solutions, but these discussions aroused the authorities’ dissatisfaction. They accused the public associations of playing a political game. There is a risk that an organization will be associated with a party only because it pronounced on a social issue.

“Currently, civil society plays an important role in the communication with the public institutions. The National Participation Council is a communication mechanism that didn’t exist earlier. This platform offers civil society more possibilities of being involved in practically all the important processes that take place. Something like this didn’t exist until 2009. There were other cooperation elements, but this mechanism is entirely new. The communication forms also improved significantly. We can see certain qualitative results,” said Sergiu Ostaf.

He also said that Moldova managed to develop much better mechanisms for communication between civil society and the Government than Ukraine and Russia. “There are councils that become involved in the decision-making process and this thing influences the functioning of the state institutions. Regretfully, the mechanism for selecting the representatives of civil society in these councils is yet very politicized, but the presence of civil society within them points to the public authorities’ openness and this thing will produce results in 2-3 years already,” stated Sergiu Ostaf.

Moldova does better than Ukraine and even Romania

The CReDO director considers that the public institutions in Moldova until recently were used as instruments for exerting political influence. Now these institutions cooperate with the nongovernmental organizations that promote the public interests. This is also an important qualitative development compared with the previous period. “We want representatives of civil society in the Central Election Commission and other institutions. Anyway, if we compare the situation in the eastern countries, there is no such cooperation there,” said Sergiu Ostaf.

The functioning of the public institutions by communicating with civil society speaks about a more inclusive democracy that is more open to the people, and the situation in Moldova is not comparable to that in Ukraine from qualitative viewpoint. “If we compare the state of affairs in Moldova with the situation in the Western countries, I think that Moldova, by its diverse institutionalized forms, compares with Romania and even outruns it because the neighboring country does not have a National Participation Council, while the National NGO Council of Romania is not so active in the social sphere. I think that the situation on some of the segments in Moldova is better. We can compare ourselves with such countries as Hungary and Slovakia and are in a much better situation than Ukraine and Russia,” said the CReDO director.

Without civil society, Moldova would become a very politicized environment

Sergiu Ostaf said that civil society creates opinion currents. If it disappears, society would be deprived of the plurality of ideas as regards certain situations and decisions. “Civil society often criticizes the Government for lack of performance and for no fulfilling the promises made or the government program assumed. If civil society didn’t exist, this thing would be done by the opposition. But the opposition aims to put the Government in a critical light, while civil society does not pursue political goals. This thing for the Government is often painful. We receive all kinds of replies that the NGOs are on the opposition’s side. Without civil society, Moldova would be a very politicized environment,” said Sergiu Ostaf.

According to him, civil society in Moldova is yet rather passive and does not dare to do many things. “There are organizations that are loyal to the government or that are not sufficiently critical. Even if we become involved in the implementation of a law, this action is the responsibility of the authorities, not of civil society,” stated Sergiu Ostaf.

NGOs will have to prove that they are useful

Under the Civil Society Strategy, every Moldovan who pays taxes to the state will be able to allocate 2% of the paid tax to a nongovernmental association that showed its public utility. Sergiu Ostaf said this initiative is a form of participation in the public life. When the people help support a public association, this organization will bear responsibility towards the people, for using the money. The people will also be able to decide the area to which they want to allocate the 2%. This is another form of acknowledging the social problems.

In order to convince the people to contribute to financing NGOs, these organizations will have to prove their public utility by the quality of the provided services. According to Ostaf, it is the people’s right to decide whether to leave the money to be used in the illegal schemes of the rulers or to contribute to solving a social problem through the agency of an NGO.

Alina Marin, IPN

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