An enabling environment for civil society organisations is key to their ability to operate, further grow and for the creation of an effective, vibrant and active civil society. States have a duty to protect and take positive measures to establish and maintain such an enabling environment. But when is the environment considered enabling for CSOs?
There is no accepted definition of what an enabling environment for civil society is and different issues fall under this concept. At the minimum, the environment is considered enabling when it protects the fundamental rights to freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression by law and respects them in practice. It also includes a conducive financial environment and requires the participation of civil society in decision-making processes. Click here to access the Enabling Environment for CSOs document.
Civic Space’s efforts are to mainstream the most enabling environment possible for the TC CSOs and to support them in strengthening their capacity to participate in designing, advocating, monitoring, implementation and evaluation of the legal framework as well as to create a strategy for an enabling environment for civil society development.
To support the process for the creation of a CSO database, Civic Space initiated a study to present how different EU countries keep their CSO databases and propose recommendations to the local body as well as CSOs. 5 countries were analysed in this desktop study. To review this CSO databases study report please click here.
In 2016, Civic Space commanded an assessment of the environment in which CSOs operate in the Turkish Cypriot Community and the extent to which it is enabling and in line with the best European standards. It covered i) registration and operation of CSOs; ii) existing tax benefits and other financial mechanisms for support to CSOs; iii) institutional relations between CSOs and the local body as well as mechanisms for cooperation. You can access the assessment report here.
Again in 2016, Civic Space conducted a study to review the legal texts applicable in the northern part of Cyprus to evaluate the status of the freedom of association and to identify gaps between international and European standards. The study was conducted by a senior legal expert and included the review of more than 77 legal texts and recommendations to bring the framework in line with relevant standards. You can review the analysis report here.
With regards to the “legal framework” Civic Space provided technical support to the joint drafting committee working on the new legal text on associations. This support included participation in the committee meetings to provide comments and recommendations on international and EU standards on freedom of association and provision of written comments on the legal draft text to bring it to the European standards. Technical assistance was provided by Civic Space in cooperation with ECNL. Despite the inclusion of a majority of recommendations made during this period, the final text that came into effect on 17 May 2016 has some sections which are not in line with the proposals made by Civic Space and ECNL.The text is hence not fully in line with the international standards.
In May 2017, Civic Space organised a study visit to Tallinn, Estonia to contribute in bringing the Turkish Cypriot community closer to the European norms in terms of non-profit law and freedom of association. Estonian CSOs benefit from a supportive legal environment, infrastructure, and public image, have significant organisational capacities and are strong advocates and service providers. Organising a study tour for representatives of Turkish Cypriots CSOs and local body was an extremely valuable learning experience for the 7 participants.
Following the study visit, Civic Space assisted the formation of a joint working group on enabling environment consisting of representatives of CSOs and local body. This working group has been holding meetings to discuss the findings of the studies conducted by Civic Space, identify priorities and take relevant measures for possible amendments and/or operational improvements.
Civic Space supported, the drafting of a multi-annual strategy on how to create a conducive environment for the development of CSOs, to enhance their participation in decision-making. It aimed to ensure that the environment in Cyprus creates conditions for active, independent and sustainable CSOs. The strategy was drafted by the CSO working group on enabling environment with the support of the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL) following a set of consultation activities with more than 100 CSOs. Civic Space continues to provide technical support to the working group in their advocacy efforts as well as to the joint committee on enabling environment, which includes representatives of CSOs and local body . Click here to review the Strategy Draft.
Civic Space collaborated with TAIEX (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange) mission, in February 2019, which advised the local bodies in the discussions on a new charity (public benefit) as well as a new unions legal texts. Civic Space was instrumental in liaising with the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL) to provide a senior expert to synergize with the TAIEX expert. Several meetings and seminars were held during the mission with the 2 experts, in which representatives of local body and CSOs were present. You can access the presentations made during the mission here.
In February 2019, Civic Space organised a training seminar for the local bodies responsible for the registry and operations of CSOs on international and EU standards for freedom of association. In the same seminar, operational challenges of the new legal text as well as the sections which require further reform to bring it in line with the standards were also discussed. Please click here to access the presentation made during the event.
An integrity assessment survey to analyse the governance system in the northern part of Cyprus was launched in April 2019. Conducting the assessment in the Turkish Cypriot community allows for a better understanding of the governance both in terms of the formal regulatory framework of the analysed sectors and the actual institutional practice. Done in partnership with North Macedonia Transparency International, the assessment includes the civil society sector. The assessment should be concluded by mid 2020.