Although the EU accession process is led by the state through its institutions, the civil sector has a valuable role to play. The inclusion of civil society, which is also encouraged by the EU, represents an important contribution to strengthening participatory democracy, i.e. enabling the advocacy of the citizens’ interests in the processes of shaping public policies and strategies, as well as the enactment of laws regulating issues of public interest. However, there is plenty of space for content and qualitative advancements in this area.
One of the obstacles to the more active participation of civil society organizations (CSOs) refers also their capacities. This particularly refers to smaller organizations or those operating outside the capital Podgorica. At the same time, the authorities generally formally and symbolically recognize the potential and importance of civil society. Hence, the opportunity to use already poor existing resources is missed and the scope for the development of a functional democracy is consequently limited. Also, deficiencies of systemic mechanisms prevent the activities of civil society in its full capacity.
Improvement of the practice of consulting CSOs should be based on better planning and a higher degree of transparency, openness and inclusiveness of institutions to the CSOs’ suggestions. On the other hand, more effective participation of CSOs requires capacity building and experience, as well as networking of the organizations, but also networking and cooperation with institutions. However, this includes a more stimulating legal and policy framework, reduction of administrative requirements and bureaucratic burdens, as well as regulation of financing modalities that would respond to the needs indicated by credible organizations.
The non-governmental sector enjoys a high level of public trust in Montenegro as indicated by the public opinion researches. At the same time, NGOs are burdened by great expectations from various stakeholders, and often also by a misunderstanding of the framework in which they operate and their real possibilities.
Having regard to the foregoing, the overall objective of the project CSOs in Montenegro-from basic services to policy shapers- M’BASE is to contribute to the recognition by state institutions of an empowered civil society that actively shapes the EU integration process in Montenegro. Specific objectives are 1) to improve the legal and financial framework for CSOs and support the active inclusion of CSOs in the local and national decision-making process; 2) to strengthen CSOs’ capacities to become professional, effective and accountable actors in the participatory democracy process and to have increased visibility in the country; 3) to improve accountability and transparency of public institutions, especially with regard to the EU accession process.
In this regard, financial support is envisaged for app. 50 projects that will be implemented by app. 100 CSOs, independently or in partnership with other CSOs or local authorities, working on issues relevant to democratization and Europeanization of Montenegro, as well as development and implementation of a series of recommendations and conclusions related to the modalities of improving the legal, institutional and administrative framework in which CSOs operate. It is expected that this will strengthen the capacity of app. 100 CSOs to monitor public policies, which will be reflected also in app. 50 successfully implemented supported projects of CSOs or consortia of CSOs and local governments. At the same time, there will be an exchange of good practices and joint advocacy of those CSOs involved in this project, where applicable. All this will be accompanied by annual monitoring reports and analyses on progress in the field of democratization and the role of CSOs, which will be the basis for the evidence-based public forums. Ultimately, the expected result is that the level of knowledge and awareness of the importance of work and services provided by CSOs throughout Montenegro among at least 30,000 citizens will be raised.
One of the key activities of the CSOs in Montenegro-from basic services to policy shapers – M’BASE is direct support to CSOs. In this regard, five Calls for Proposals will be conducted, within which financial resources will be allocated, but also the capacities of supported CSOs will be strengthened, through a special and comprehensive programme, in order to successfully implement their activities in accordance with European rules.
The project CSOs in Montenegro – from basic services to policy shaping – M’BASE is implemented by the Centre for Civic Education (CCE), in partnership with the German foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), NGO Center for the Protection and Research of Birds (CZIP) and NGO Politikon Network (PIN) from Montenegro, in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Administration, Digital Society and Media and European Integration Office of the Government of Montenegro. The project is financed by the European Union and co-financed by the Ministry of Public Administration, Digital Society and Media.
II Call for proposals for the support for projects of CSO in Montenegro
I Call for proposals for the support for projects of CSO in Montenegro