12 000 NGOs in BiH do not guarantee a functional civil society: more transparency and dialogue between government and non government sectors are needed

Developed civil society and  its participation in decision and policy making processes represent one of the corner stones of functional democracy, said Head of the EU Delegation’s Section for Social Development, Civil Society and Cross-Border Cooperation, Natalia Dianiskova, at the opening of the seminar “The role of civil society in strengthening the political dialogue in Bosnia and Herzegovina ”.

“It is unthinkable to have a democratic society without developed civil society”, added Dianiskova.

The seminar was organised in Sarajevo in the framework of Pople2People (P2P) Program, implemented by the European Commission in cooperation with the Delegation of EU to BiH and local offices for technical assistance to civil society organisations (TACSO).

The aim of the seminar is to provide civil society organisations with the opportunity to initiate discussion on the potential role of civil society in strengthening dialogue in BiH and to learn about the past and present examples from other countries.

According to Natalia Dianiskova, BiH has a “limited” history of development of civil society.  Before the war there was a range of public organisations with activities mainly in the areas of culture and sport.  After the war there was an “explosion” of NGOs. However, this “explosion” is of quantitative rather than qualitative nature. According to the recently published analysis there are approximately 12,000 organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina that can be considered as non profit and non-government organisations.

Dianiskova emphasised that the key to the establishment of cooperation between governmental and non-governmental sector should be, primarily, sought in raising awareness on the importance of this process, building their capacities for cooperation and establishment of legal and institutional framework for the development of civil society dialogue between government and non-governmental sectors.

Dianiskova’s introductory speech helped participants to define weaknesses in the environment in which the civil society organisations operates such as: lack of institutional dialogue, a fact that most of NGOs are donor driven , most of the public funds foreseen for the CSOs are distributed through the so-called model “directly from the budget to NGOs of special interest” and the least through the project based approach, there is minimum or no transparency in disbursement of funds at all, the  communication and cooperation between local governments and CSOs is very poor.

However, in the same speech she referred to a fact that recent developments prove there has been some progress to the weaknesses described before.

Resident Advisor in the TACSO Office in BiH, Slavica Drašković, said that this seminar is a good opportunity for a dialogue between organisations that are strongly motivated. “All speakers at the seminar today were critical about the dialogue between their own party- civil society from one side and the governments at all levels on the other side, said Drašković.

She added that it would be appropriate if such an event opens a series of discussions in BiH to the topics that will be here determined as important.