CSOs have stronger voice when working in a network, they create new advocacy and policy impact tactics, and jointly find the best multi-sectoral approaches for solving social and economic issues. These are some of the key conclusions from the Framework Partnership Agreements closing event, organized by DG NEAR and TACSO on 10-11 November 2016 in Skopje. Four representatives of the SELDI initiative took part in the event: Daniela Mineva, Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy and the SELDI Secretariat, Marija Sazdevski, Researcher at the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation, Brunilda Kosta, Researcher at the Albanian Center for Economic Research and Dita Dobranja, Researcher at Institute Riinvest, Kosovo.
The CSOs shared that in the last four years they succeeded to bring new topics to the public agenda, laws were changed and institutional procedures were improved. They have built expertise and gained momentum, which they hope to continue to use. They however are still faced with several outstanding issues:
- CSOs tend to work at central level. To address this issue, CSOs should apply more actively the bottom-up approach and seek citizens’ engagement. They should create a demand for accountability, e.g. on open data on public budget spending. An effective approach is to engage wide range of stakeholders – businesses, academia, media and international institutions to apply proxy pressure on policy-makers at all levels.
- The citizens show no interest or are unaware of key economic, social or political issues. CSOs should provide a public consultations services, and engage the public. The information should be presented in a simple and understandable manner, both trough traditional channels, as well as through the use of new media and technologies.
- CSOs could become overly focused on their own network and miss the opportunities for collaboration. CSOs should strive to build synergies with other CSOs, as well as with the Government. They should explore the possibilities for sectoral cooperation, and for joining global initiatives and networks.
- Sometimes CSOs are faced with institutional blocks or uncooperative policy-makers. In such cases, CSOs could chose to work with different stakeholders and/or with independent journalists.
- Change cannot be achieved only with criticism. CSOs should not just identify the current problems, but also the benefits from the proposed changes.