Supporting civil society in the South Caucasus and the Republic of MoldovaPublished: May 20, 2021 Reading time: 5 minutes
The civic environment in Armenia, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova has matured over the last several years, shaping the perception of democracy, freedom of speech and thought, and civic activism. Young leaders, small informal groups, and local civic initiatives are making civil society in these countries more complex, and bringing new topics interconnected with local realities and priorities to the public agenda.
To help support the progress being made, People in Need (PIN) is implementing the “Civil society actors as drivers of change in South Caucasus and Moldova” project funded by the European Union. The aim of the project, which began in 2020 and will run through 2022, is to create a platform for encouraging and strengthening newly established civil society organisations, grassroots groups, civic initiatives, and social and cultural movements. It is also a platform that allows civil society organisations from Armenia, Georgia, and the Republic of Moldova to learn from people with significant experience in the nongovernmental sector, as well as to learn from each other.
The initial stage of the project was a call for participation, launched simultaneously in Armenia, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, and addressed to civil society organisations registered within the past three years. As a result, eight organisations in each country have been selected to participate in the project and begin a two-year journey of self-development.
“Through this project, we have discovered dedicated and creative local leaders or simply active people who, instead of waiting for the change to happen by itself, are taking the role of change-makers in their communities,” says Elena Terzi, PIN’s Regional Coordinator of the project.
The diversity of the selected organisations and their focus areas is a strong indicator of how varied the civic environment is across these three countries, and of the potential it holds.
In Armenia, the organisations selected include:
• The Health Policy and Innovation Centre, which promotes a human rights-based approach to healthcare and health policy;
• The Civic Youth Centre, focusing on advocacy for the right of citizens to take part in local governance and council meetings;
• Community and Youth, a political café and civic space in a town that doesn’t offer many opportunities;
• Initiative for Educational, Social and Legal Inclusion, which promotes the inclusion and active participation of marginalised people in all spheres of public and political life;
• Mitq Youth-Educational Initiative, working to create more opportunities for youth to develop critical thinking skills and to join community associations;
• Restart Gyumri, which is leading the movement for affordable, inclusive, modern university education where students are treated fairly and encouraged to think freely;
• The Women’s Empowerment Resource Centre, whose priority is women’s participation in local self-government; and
• Youth Opportunities, which helps people retrain and access in-demand jobs in social media marketing, software development, and other sectors of the online economy.
In Georgia, the selected organisations include:
• Z.axis, whose work focuses on data visualisation and research in the social sciences;
• Aitsona-Daitsona, promoting informal education through art;
• Pankisi Community Organisation, whose priorities are citizen engagement and problem advocacy;
• Young Feminists, a group active in the protection of the rights of women and girls, empowering young girls, and promoting gender equality;
• Platform Salam, which focuses on the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities, community mobilisation, and empowerment;
• Towards New Opportunities, which promotes women's empowerment, tolerance and diversity, and organises campaigns against early marriage;
• Creative Society, supporting youth, education and culture, sports, ecology, charity, and advocacy for community problems; and
• Zemo Svaneti Local Action Group, which promotes community mobilisation, cooperation and capacity building, and the introduction of social services at the municipal level.
In the Republic of Moldova, the project will work with:
• Echitate, which provides juridical assistance to vulnerable people;
• Laolaltă/ Împreună împotriva COVID-19, helping the elderly and people in need during the pandemic by purchasing and delivering food, medicines, and hygiene products;
• Luceafărul Sudic, which promotes community development and citizen involvement;
• Mediu curat și oameni sănătoși, whose focus is on mobilising volunteers and authorities to protect the environment;
• CU SENS, a group of investigative journalists creating content of public interest;
• Puls comunitar, providing support to people infected with HIV/AIDS and drug users;
• TinerEd, a group that organises informal educational activities for youth; and
• VIP CENTRU, helping people facing domestic violence.
These 24 civil society organisations were chosen as the result of a rigorous selection process, based on criteria including an interest in bringing systemic change at the local or national level, and a desire to mobilise others to achieve concrete results. The ability of the organisations to assess their own areas of weakness, the motivation to improve and to develop their capacities, as well as a readiness to commit significant time and energy to their development were also considered by the project team.
“All of the organisations and civic initiatives we are working with have their own story to tell, and we are glad that, with support from the European Union, we can promote their voices, increase people’s trust in civil society organisations, and help them take their first steps as civil society actors,” adds Terzi.
The project team supports the selected organisations at different levels. Several skilled facilitators have worked with each organisation to help them assess their own capacities and to develop their strategy for the next two years. As the project continues, they will be able to access tailored trainings, coaching, mentoring, consultations, study visits, and fellowships. Additional opportunities available for these organisations include strengthening connections with their communities, supporters, and volunteers, as well as networking with peers and partners in other countries.
The organisations will also explore if, why, and how to engage with the private sector, and how to self-organise and manage resources in an effective, transparent, and accountable way. Finally, project participants will be able to apply for flexible funding to support their organisational development and public campaigns.
This material was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of People in Need and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.