The civil society in Southeast Europe faces a number of challenges related to overwhelming reliance on external donors, shrinking civil space and foreign malign influence, lack of open access to public information and registers, and overly formalistic inclusion in the strategic decisions-making. This has prevented CSOs and CSO networks from achieving their optimal diagnostic, advocacy, and watchdog potential for installing good governance. At the same time, corruption and state capture persist and threaten the economic stability and development of the region.
In order to find new and innovative ways for CSOs to join forces and share expertise, the SELDI initiative organized an online brainstorming webinar on 18 January 2022. The webinar gathered experts from around the world, including keynote speakers Chris Walker, Vice President for Studies and Analysis at the International Forum for Democratic Studies, National Endowment for Democracy, U.S. and Vojtech Hons, Project Task Manager, Directorate-General for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission.
The participants discussed the best methods for cooperation that could lead to greater civil society impact in the areas of anti-corruption, good governance, and the rule of law. They also identified common topics and areas of interest and efficient CSO-state cooperation mechanism that they could jointly utilize. The speakers placed particular focus on the radical transformation of the information space towards more disinformation, and the digital revolution which is sometimes used for purposes not consistent with democratic governance.
In conclusion, the participants agreed that only networks of CSOs and investigative journalists with complementary expertise and research methodologies, could monitor and analyse in depth the complex newly emerging governance challenges. CSO networks could also achieve greater credibility and advocacy impact by approaching policy-makers as a coalition. This way no government would feel specifically targeted, and at the same time there would be a pressure for reforms.