A strong civil society is key to good governance in a democracy, and many civil society organizations (CSOs) in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are fighting for positive changes in their country. However, Macedonian CSOs tend to lack structure, direction, and public support – with CSOs dissenting from the ruling political party often being oppressed.
As late as 2017, CSOs funded by George Soros, USAID, and other Western donors were demonized as traitors and spies by the then-ruling government and biased media outlets.
Support, knowledge, unity
To provide civil society in Macedonia with much-needed support, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) initiated the Civica Mobilitas programme in 2013 and contracted NIRAS to run the implementation.
Civica Mobilitas, which is running from 2014 to 2018, aims to support civil society in effecting social change in Macedonia, doing so through three components: the provision of support, networking, and training to civil society actors; the provision of funding; and research and development.
Activities undertaken by Civica Mobilitas as part of these components include providing a help desk to CSOs; facilitating cooperation between various organisations, the public, and authorities; providing Ph.D. funding and internships; funding organisational development and enabling CSOs to bring about social change by means of financing; and doing research of subjects relevant to civil society.
Achieving great things
Civica Mobilitas grantees have carried out an impressive range of projects and activities across Macedonia, promoting good governance, decentralisation, and social change.
So far, 221 grants have been awarded to projects such as a shelter centre that aims to give unemployed single mothers the means and support to find jobs, and an organization that provides legal counsel and training to Roma communities around the protection of their basic rights.
However, the largest impact of Civica Mobilitas grantees thus far was their relentless advocating, lobbying, and protests for social change, which resulted in the change of government in June 2017. The new government has been more open to cooperate with civil society and has started involving CSOs in public policy and decision making, a good sign for the growth of the civil society sector in the future.