The Non-governmental Organizations Sustainability Index in Bulgaria for the year 2016 is 3.3 – without any change in the general sustainability for NGOs for the fifth consecutive year. The only improvement in 2016 is in the area of advocacy: changes in the Statutory Instruments Act define clearer standards for public participation in the lawmaking process and NGOs have continued to actively organize campaigns for advocacy. However, there has been a decrease of financial sustainability due to two major financing programs having concluded. During 2016 NGOs, ecological NGOs in particular, were subject to smear campaigns. Often NGOs are a driving force for change as defenders of the rights of minorities, immigrants and other marginalized groups, and because of this they are frequently perceived as enemies, usually by nationalistic groups.
The rating for 2016 is 2.5.
This is the sphere with the highest rating. NGOs face growing problems relating to registration, but changes to the Non-profit Corporate Bodies Law were accepted in September, through which these complications should be overcome. Another positive development in the legal environment are the changes in the Law for the BULSTAT Register, with which banks and other institutions are prohibited from requiring registration credentials from NGOs, as this information is now available online.
. Rating 4.1.
Many of the non-governmental organizations understand the necessity of creating a loyal core of followers, but smaller NGOs in particular face difficulties when focusing their attentions to attracting followers. Few NGOs plan long-term. According to the National Youth Forum, less than 20% of its 40 member NGOs have a written strategy and plans for the future for more than the next 2 – 3 years. It is difficult for NGOs to attract employees as they cannot be offered the long-term job stability and high salaries typical of other sectors. The level of volunteering in the country is low as a whole.
. Rating 4.3.
In 2016, the financial stability of NGOs has marked a slight decrease, because two of the sources of foreign funding – the EEA/Norwegian Financial Mechanism have ceased awarding new grants. The "America for Bulgaria" Foundation remains the largest NGO donor, especially in the areas of democracy and supremacy of the law. A positive development entails that according to the accepted change in the Non-profit Corporate Bodies Law of 2016, budgetary funds for financing NGOs' initiatives will be provided on a competitive basis. The amounts of funding and the conditions for their allotment are as yet unclear, since the changes will come into effect in 2018.
. Rating 2.6.
In 2016 the advocacy activity of NGOs has improved with the acceptance of changes to the Statutory Instruments Act. According to the changes, for example, the government is required to publish its program for changing existing laws and accepting new ones, and to further increase the time for public consultations from 14 to 30 days. NGOs have organized various campaigns for raising awareness and advocacy. For example, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) organized a campaign for the preservation of Pirin. The "Children without bars" campaign, which encourages reforms in the youth justice system, continued in 2016, gathering almost 5000 signatures for an online petition.
Provision of Services
. Rating 3.1.
NGOs offer a wide range of services in the social sphere, education, culture and other areas. Care for the elderly, homes for disabled children and help at refugee centers can be given as examples. NGOs also offer professional services such as researches, analyses and consultations. Even though there are examples of municipalities assigning NGOs many of their services, there are cases in which the partnership between NGOs and municipalities is extremely limited. Whereas Sofia has given NGOs 29 of a total of 52 services, in Plovdiv only 3 of 44 services have been delegated.
Some of the larger networks – like the National Network for Children, Civil Participation Forum and National Youth Forum offer their members information, consultation services and training. Apart from that some professional organizations fill the role of resource centers and offer their support to other organizations. For example, the Bulgarian Charity Forum offers support in the area of philanthropy. BCNL offers consultations and training to NGOs regarding the legislation, connected to their activities; maintains The Information Portal of Nongovernmental Organizations; and manages the NGO House, a shared working space for NGOs.
Even though many media outlets – both state-owned and private – cover the work, activities and accomplishments of NGOs, another large group of media – specifically private online outlets – take part in a smear campaign against NGOs. In 2016 such media outlets lead an active campaign against ecological organizations, labeling them "Green Octopus" and attacking watchdog organizations financed by foreign sources, which were often critical of the government. Local media, on the other hand, cooperate with NGOs and strive to bring notice of their activities. The private sector and many government institutions partner with NGOs, which shows a positive attitude to the sector.
Data and analyses from the Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index from previous years can be read at the site: www.bcnl.org.
The Index is developed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the partnership of the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-profit Law (BCNL). Every one of the areas is evaluated on a seven point basis – from 1 (the highest point of sustainability) to 7 (the lowest point of sustainability).
Results from the Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index for 2016 (CSOSI) for Central and Eastern Europe
Civil society organizations (CSOs) and individuals in Europe and Eurasia are increasingly learning to adapt to constricting civic space by finding new ways to advocate, to mobilize citizens, and to raise funds. Results from the 2016 CSO Sustainability Index (CSOSI) for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, produced by the U.S. Agency for International Development with partners in each participating country, show that a number of countries, including Hungary, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Macedonia, have experienced democratic backsliding. This backsliding now threatens both the sustainability of CSOs, and also citizens' fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression. From the mass protests in Macedonia to those in Poland, this year's report shows that public demonstrations continued to be an important tool in 2016 to bring both the public's and policymakers' attention to issues of public concern. CSO sustainability in many countries in the region is increasingly challenged by decreased access to funding and constricting operating space. However, this year's report highlights progress in financial diversification through innovative practices. As governments restrict access to foreign funding and reduce state funding to CSOs, organizations are increasingly turning to crowdfunding as an alternative source of funding. In addition, crowdfunding appears to be taking hold in a broader range of issue areas, as CSOs reported some success with fundraising for political and human rights activities in 2016, in addition to the social, environmental, and cultural activities it originally targeted. In other contexts, however, government restrictions have made it highly difficult for CSOs to operate. In Azerbaijan, for example, informal surveys indicate that at least two-thirds of CSOs have suspended their activities over the past few years, and surviving CSOs have lost most of their staff due to insufficient funding.