Brussels, 16 September 2020
EaP CSF COVID-19 Briefing Paper: Supporting the viability and sustainability of EaP civil society
This is the fourth and final publication of our COVID-19 Briefing Paper series covering the challenges that CSOs are facing during this unparalleled crisis, and the ways that key international stakeholders can support the viability and sustainability of the EaP civil society sector going forward.
Civil society organisations have been at the forefront of efforts to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Eastern Partnership region. In a crisis which has put the crisis management capacities of the EaP governments to the test, CSOs have stepped up to the plate, mobilising in defence of fundamental rights and freedoms, and in support of vulnerable groups and the economy. In this last COVID-19 briefing paper, the EaP CSF discusses the challenges that CSOs have been facing and how stakeholders can support them.
The new, challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a deterioration in the financial situation of civil society organisations – exacerbated by already restrictive CSO legislation with regards to grants from foreign donors in countries like Azerbaijan and Belarus – at a time when organisations’ capacities are already being pushed to the limit by the ongoing sanitary and economic emergency.
To support CSOs during these circumstances and to ensure the viability and sustainability of the civil society sector, the EaP CSF has outlined a series of recommendations to the EU and international donors:
- The EU should reconsider the purpose and recipients of the EUR 50 million COVID-19 emergency support for Belarus and prevent that the money passes through the Belarusian government. Rather, the money should reach bona fide civil society in order to assist the victims of human rights abuses and build the capacity of CSOs
- Moreover, the EU should introduce the possibility to apply for bridge funding within the EU’s EaP COVID-19 Solidarity Programme so as to cover CSOs who do not have access to the new funding mechanisms
- A CSO Liquidity Fund should be established as a short term solution until new funding and income possibilities return
- The funding for capacity building should be increased in areas like working with large numbers of volunteers, employing digital platforms, public health issues, risk mitigation and revision of business models
- Reporting periods for ongoing projects should be extended in order to free time for the organisations’ crisis response
- Also, there should be more flexibility in regard to existing financial support, such as allowing for changes to the purpose of project expenses
This paper has been elaborated in the framework of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum #PrepareEaP4Health campaign and aims to illustrate the context in which civil society is addressing the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 public health crisis. It is based on the author’s desk research, and collective input from EaP CSF member organisations, provided through an online consultation conducted between 25 March and 3 April 2020. A total of 84 responses from all six EaP countries and EU member states took part in the survey: 25 from Armenia, 13 from Azerbaijan, 5 from Belarus, 10 from Georgia, 6 from Moldova, 17 from Ukraine, and 8 from EU member states. The survey was designed to identify the major needs and concerns of civil society.