It happened. Skeptics did not have much time for spreading doubt in understanding the Government of the necessary relations with the civic sector, or in the civic sector’s capacity to fight for its place in the society. The government has adopted the Strategy, where it obliges to cooperation with the civic sector and developing and strengthening civil society organizations.
Pointless are the dilemmas whether this outcome results from the democratic growth of the state, or shown understanding for the recommendations by the European Union. In the concrete case, the fact itself that as a state that has serious ambitions for membership in the Union, we can receive messages, we understand them, we can build them into our own normative code and take an obligation to implement them, implies exceptional seriousness and maturity. It is a significant act, for greeting, for celebrating…but this is only the beginning of a process that should result in strengthening the social tissue, by creating institutional forms for providing unbreakable unity of differences.
I do not identify the Government’s seriousness only with the act of adopting the Strategy. There are many adopted strategies that have served as manifestation of some declarative choice, in its time, and were then left forgotten. Wasted labor, time and money in vain. In this case, the Strategy is supported by an exclusively serious action plan for its implementation. The ambitious agenda of tasks by the beginning of the next decade, for the Government and each competent ministry, separately. An additional guarantee is the already formed governmental Department for cooperation with non-governmental organizations, that has been functioning with great enthusiasm and full capacity for two years. So things are not left to chance. There is a will, a vision and a capacity to make a serious step forward. In any case, at least two are necessary for love. This act of necessary partnership could not have been formalized if we had not had an already built, profiled and powerful civic sector, and from the experience it knows that things are not to be left to case and even better, that now is the real moment. The best example of the role of the civic sector in providing relations with the Government is the example of Hungary. The state near us and in a European context, far beyond us, has a Strategy for cooperation of the Government with the civil society organizations, prepared solely by the civic sector. The Government has in no moment raised an initiative to take part in its preparation, even less formally to take responsibility with its adoption. However, it implements it, with no exception. Denmark, on the other hand, is an example of even more liberal relations (there is not a strategy, there are not many standardized obligations), that function almost impeccably, thank to the level of democratic culture and strongly expressed civic feeling for common, joined taking actions. The fact that on the average every Danish in his life is a member of three civil society organizations, best illustrates the above mentioned.
In our conditions, at the moment, both the Government and the civic sector really need the Strategy. As a kind of a textbook, which, when memorized, will become part of the collective awareness, a role model, might not exist.
However, the next question that is imposing at the moment is why only a governmental strategy in conditions when in the state there is a process of power decentralization being implemented. The relations of the civic sector with the Government would be the most intensive in the process of creating policies and preparation of laws in the actual organization of different levels of power in terms of the competencies they have. However, there is also another sphere in which the civic sector can also be very useful – in the part of services. Most of the services that citizens get from the central power are now as a competence transferred to the local level. Experiences from many states show that some of the services, mainly in the social sphere, are carried out by civil society organizations, in the name of the municipality, quite successfully. Thus the municipality is spared additional administration and the expenses, as well as saving energy and time that can be directed towards achieving some other objectives. This practice is not developed enough in our country. Veles is among the rare ones that have started working according to this principle and it gathers the experiences, positive so far, only in the field of culture. There are several reasons for this. In these, less than two years of functioning with the new competencies, municipalities still realize their own possibilities. They need information and training, not only for themselves, but simultaneously, for the local authorities, local administration and the local civil society organizations. In the first phase it is necessary for them to get familiar with the best practices from other countries, and in the second phase dissemination of the best domestic practices. The other problem is that the so far modest practice of this plan, not only on local level, has almost always been followed by doubts of manipulations and this is the reason why partnerships last shortly. The key is in transparency. Transparent game rules are necessary, especially in defining the criteria for financing and reporting. It is one of the key contributions of the Strategy. The Strategy is governmental, but there are references the game rules to be transferred to local level, too, on partnership bases. This shall be one of the steps in its implementation. The local authorities should not experience this fact as imposing by the central power, but only as an incentive, initiating new models of functioning, where, some already set game rules can serve as a good practice that can be turned into own, local strategy.
(the author is a state counselor in the Ministry of Local Self-Government)