Overall sustainability of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Georgia has improved slightly in 2013, according to CSO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, which is compiled annually by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
In 2013 Georgian experts scored the sector’s combined sustainability at 4.1 points, a 0.1 improvement from 2012. The CSO Sustainability Index uses a seven-point scale with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of sustainability.
With this score Georgia falls in a category where “the civil society sector’s sustainability is minimally affected by practices/policies in this area. Progress may be hampered by a stagnant economy, a passive government, a disinterested media, or a community of good-willed but inexperienced activists”.
Presentation of the report on Georgia was held on October 2 at the Tbilisi-based UN Association of Georgia, which has been working with the Management Systems International (MSI), to develop the annual country report for USAID’s global publication since 2011. The publication, which for the past few years is being translated into Georgian as well, was developed with the help of 11 Georgian experts.
According to the report, the year-long political coexistence of the new ruling coalition and outgoing president extended the space for successful CSO advocacy in late 2012 and 2013, as the public and media turned to forces beyond the government and opposition for alternative opinions and expertise, which in turn also helped to further improving of public image of CSOs.
Local sources of income remain limited and CSOs remain largely donor-driven, however, with no clear prospects for financial or institutional sustainability, the report says. The changes in Georgia’s political environment after the parliamentary elections of 2012 temporarily decelerated the anticipated growth in government grants, according to the report.
It also says that the highly competitive labor market makes it difficult for CSOs to retain, train, and further invest in qualified labor. However, according to the report, following the 2012 parliamentary elections, many of the former high-ranking government professionals moved into the civil society sector, which significantly diversified and strengthened the sector. At the same time, the massive influx of former government officials, who some view as strong critics of the new government, has further polarized the CSO sector, according to the report.
The Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index (CSOSI) has been used since 1997 to assess the sustainability of the CSO sector. The Index has expanded considerably since its inception – it went from covering 18 countries in the Europe and Eurasia Region, to covering over 60 countries in different regions around the world. By using standard indicators and collecting data each year, the CSOSI enables users to track developments and identify trends in the CSO sector over time while allowing for cross-country and cross-region comparison. It is used by CSO advocates, development partners, and academics to assess international and regional trends in the civil society sector and to identify common obstacles impeding the sectorâ€™s sustainability, such as the legal environment, organizational capacity, and financial viability.