Skopje, 30th January 2023 – Civil society organisations sitting on the Council for Cooperation between the Government and the Civil Society, as elected representatives of the civil sector, express their strong revolt over the Government’s treatment of the Council and the civil society in general. To this end, we demand from the President of the Government, Mr. Dimitar Kovačevski, to meet with the representatives of the civil society organisations on the Council, where we shall expect the Government’s policy on the civil society to be clarified, an agreement to be reached regarding the challenging issues raised earlier, and the dialogue that was instituted over the last years to be genuinely restored.
We, Cooperation Council members from the ranks of the civil society organisations, maintain that the Council’s work was obstructed last year through the Government’s ignoring of the Council’s key recommendations and conclusions, the provision of which is the Council’s primary competence as an advisory body to the Government. Several attempts were made to establish direct communication, and thereby schedule a meeting, with the President of the Government and the Government’s representatives, to discuss the crucial issues affecting the functioning of the civil society, but to no avail.
We are deeply concerned with the regressed cooperation, and the lack of a meaningful, be it even formal, communication and dialogue. The functioning of the civil society is a key indicator of a country’s democratic environment, and when this becomes endangered – the country’s progress is also called into question, as well as its approximation to the European Union. Over the last period, as we do today, we have reiterated the following challenging issues:
- Amendments and supplements were introduced to the Law on Association and Foundations without a consultative process involving the stakeholders, in particular, the Cooperation Council and, more broadly, the civil society organisations. Believing that there was an active working group drafting the amendments and supplements to this law, the minimum expectation was for the Government to launch a consultative process through public discussion in the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia;
- In the last year, the Government both formally and substantially infracted the institutional set-up by rescinding the funds from the Government’s General Secretariat earmarked for supporting the activities of the civil sector and, without any consultations, designated the Ministry of Political System and Inter-Community Relations as the competent ministry to allocate the funds for civil society organisations support. By taking such actions, the Ministry of Political System and Inter-Community Relations has completely overstepped its competences, as regulated by the country’s legal framework. The Cooperation Council drew attention to this point on a number of occasions, but the Government and the Ministry fully ignored the position of this body;
- Despite all efforts, the process of reforming the state funding was not carried through in 2022 either and, moreover, instead of allowing for an increase in the state funding, civil society organisations faced curtailment of funds on various grounds. This is in full contradiction with the Government’s Strategy for Cooperation with and Development of Civil Society, which unequivocally provides for increased state funding of the civil society;
- The Government closed the consultative process on State Administration Reforms, breaching the fundamental postulates of cooperation with stakeholders. This process, which involves a thorough and comprehensive reforms of state authorities, despite the several requests from the Council and the civil sector in general, continues to be carried out strictly within the ministries.
In addition to this situation, a number of civil society organisations have reported that the room for operation of associations and foundations has been significantly narrowed, and the communication with several ministries has deteriorated to alarming proportions, which has also been asserted in a number of reports assessing the enabling environment for civil society organisations.
Drawing from what was said above, it is evident that the Government does not work on achieving the goals of the Strategy for Cooperation with and Development of Civil Society 2022-2024 and does not implement the Action Plan derived from this Strategy. At the same time, considering that its work has been hampered, the Council has not been able to monitor the Government’s fulfilment of its obligations arising from the Strategy, which is something the Council has been mandated with.
Valuing the indispensable contribution of the civil society to the country’s progress and the support this sectors gives to the integration of the Republic of North Macedonia in the European Union, Council members from the ranks of the civil society organisations expect the President of the Government and the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia to demonstrate constructiveness and preserve the fundamental democratic values that we strive for as a country, thus not bringing into question the operation of an entire sector of this society. To this end, in addition to this public address, a new request for a meeting has been sent to the Cabinet of the President of the Government, as well as to the President of the country, the relevant commissions of the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia, and the Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of North Macedonia.
Civil sector representatives elected to the Council for Cooperation between the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia and the civil society, with their organisations:
- Snežana Kamilovska Trpovska, Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation, Skopje – area: democracy and rule of law
- Uranija Pirovska, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia, Skopje – area: human rights promotion and protection and antidiscrimination
- Nikica Kusinikova, Association “Konekt”, Skopje – area: economic and sustainable development
- Dimitar Nizamovski, Civil Association Youth Educational Forum, Skopje – area: science, education and lifelong learning
- Zoran Ilieski, Coalition of Youth Organisations “Sega”, Prilep – area: young people
- Jasminka Friščić, Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women, Skopje – area: social protection and child protection
- Daliborka Zlateva, Association of Persons with Cerebral Palsy and other Disabilities, Veles – area: protection of marginalised persons
- Andrej Senih, Association for Support of People Living with HIV “Stronger Together”, Skopje – area: health protection
- Liljana Jonoski, Association “Rural Coalition”, Kumanovo – area: agriculture and rural development
- Tijana Ana Spasovska, Association of the Independent Culture Scene “Jadro”, Skopje – area: culture
- Nikola Dodov, Association for Promotion of Informatics, Association of Students and Informatics, Skopje – area: media and information society
- Dragica Kostadinovska, Multi-ethnic Organisation for International Cultures “Mozaik Meik”, Skopje – area: sport
- Ardita Abazi Imeri, European Policy Institute, Skopje – area: EU integration and policies
- Marija Savovska, Association for Advancement of Gender Equality “Akcija Združenska”, Skopje – area: gender equality
- Saška Kocevska, Ecologists’ Movement of Macedonia, Veles – area: environmental protection