Impact of COVID-19 on Civil Society in BiH

“Impact of COVID-19 on Civil Society in BiH” is the name of a one-year project implemented by the Civil Society Promotion Center with the financial support of The Balkan Trust for Democracy and USAID.

The aim of the project is to investigate the extent to which COVID-19 has influenced the (un)justified reduction of the state budget for the civil sector, to inform citizens about research findings and government actions towards civil society during the 2020 pandemic, to find adequate solutions to difficulties which are related to the budgeting and existence of civil society organizations in BiH.

During 2020, the pandemic COVID-19 significantly affected all sectors in BiH, especially civil society. In this regard, transparency is largely lacking when it comes to allocating funding for civil society organizations at all levels of government. In addition to poor transparency, there are ambiguities regarding the criteria, methods of monitoring and evaluating the work of organizations based on which grants are awarded and projects are funded. The pandemic has contributed to a greater need to investigate the problem of state budgeting of civil society organizations more and implement the necessary activities for proper information, but also to find adequate solutions to these challenges.

The project will last one year and will be implemented in several phases:

Survey on the distribution of civil society budget funds for 2020

Insufficient number of relevant research in the field of public budgeting of civil society in BiH, especially in the segment of development programs and incentives for civil society organizations by all levels of government contributes to greater inability to properly inform and define adequate activities for improvement of the position of civil society in BiH. Inadequate transparency, lack of understanding and willingness of government services to participate in such research, as well as insufficient financial and partner support for the implementation of this type studies are just some of the reasons why relevant information is rarely available to the general public. On the other hand, the need for adequate mapping of the situation and the relationship of the government to the non-governmental sector is great, and it significantly affects the development of many organizations whose existence depends on the allocation of funds from the public budget.

The primary goal of the study is to explore the problems that the COVID-19 pandemic caused to civil society in terms of public funding during 2020. In this regard, it will be investigated why and to what extent the funds intended for civil society and adopted by the public budget are redirected to other sectors. The research will be conducted on whole BIH territory, including all levels of government. Also, the study’s interest groups are all levels of government that have allocated the planned budget transparently and fully to the civil sector as originally planned in the 2020 budget to define good practice and compare those with other research findings. With the primary analysis, a comparison of the findings from 2019 will be made and the adopted budget for 2021 will be presented. Quantitative and qualitative analysis, which includes surveys, focus groups and in-depth interviews, will combine the research findings into a publication that will be designed and published.

Organization of debates and round tables

Public discussions with government and civil society representatives will take place in Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Mostar. The aim of the discussions is to properly inform the public about the results of the research, but also to try to find adequate solutions to the challenges facing civil society which are related to the transparency of the allocation of funds from the state budget. Public discussions will be a meeting place for representatives of governmental and non-governmental sectors, as well as all interested citizens and the media. Press conferences will be held for each discussion.

Research publication design

After collecting the results of the research, its analysis and finalized reports and recommendations for improvement, a publication will be created, and it includes design, publication and promotion. The goal is to create a permanent document that will be promoted and available to all levels of government, civil society and the media, as well as other academic, civic, youth and other groups in society.