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The global network CIVICUS gives Austria good marks for its handling of fundamental and civil rights and civil society.

Two years ago, the international non-governmental organization CIVICUS rated the space for civil society in Austria only as “restricted”. As of today, Austria is again considered “open” due to improvements in the last few months. Only three percent of the world’s population live in countries with comparably good conditions.

CIVICUS, a global network of more than 4000 members from over 175 countries, documents with its CIVICUS monitor the threats to the development of civil society around the world. Depending on the number of points achieved on an index of 0-100, a country is considered open, narrowed, obstructed, repressed or closed. Austria is now “open” again and is in the company of Germany, Switzerland, the Benelux countries and Scandinavia. Only three percent of the world’s population live in countries with comparable conditions, where their citizens can found associations, demonstrate peacefully in public places and freely express their opinions.

In today’s press release, CIVICUS refers to the positive change brought about by the 2019 elections and as a result of which the FPÖ was replaced by the Greens in the coalition with the ÖVP. They are more open to a dialogue with civil society organizations, which can thereby make themselves heard again. Many of their demands are now taken into account in the government program. CIVICUS also cites the 700 million euro support fund for nonprofit organizations (NPOs) decided on because of the COVID-19 pandemic as evidence of positive development in Austria.

“The inclusion of CSOs in various consultation processes, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, by the Austrian government is an example of good practice which other states in the region should follow, ” Aarti Narsee, responsible for Europe at CIVICUS, now gives Austria a good report card. In one breath, however, she appeals to the ÖVP urgently to refrain from its anti-migrant rhetoric.

Franz Neunteufl, executive director of the IGO – Interest Group of Public Benefit Organizations and spokesman for ALLIANCE FOR PUBLIC BENEFIT approved: “The participation of our colleagues in the development of the aid measures to overcome the corona crisis is actually a good example of further projects in the government program to promote non-profit and volunteer work.”

In the spring of 2019, IGO came in her Civil Society Index – Update 2019 to a completely different result. At that time there was still talk of tendencies to limit the critical potential of civil society and its participation in political decision-making processes. Neunteufl today: “Even if we do not agree with everything that the government does or does not do, it is important and a sign of a healthy democratic constitution that the government seeks dialogue with organized civil society and does include it in those areas where it is affected by its decisions. “

Civil society organizations (CSOs) make indispensable contributions to a more sustainable and solidary society in Austria and worldwide. On the one hand, they assist and improve the lives of people in difficult situations; on the other, they fight for environmental protection, democracy, human rights and international solidarity – to name but a few fields of action.

With the Civil Society Index – Rapid Assessment (CSI-RA), in 2014, IGO and the NPO & SE Competence Center, in cooperation with CIVICUS, have examined the climate and framework conditions for CSOs in Austria. Both supportive and inhibiting factors were assessed from the point of view of experts and stakeholders with the help of the internationally proven instrument CSI-RA. 2019 – five years later – IGO intends to establish what has changed since then in an updated version of the Index.

Objectives

  • Description of the most important conditions for civic engagement in Austria in 2019.
  • Survey of significant changes in the framework for civil society engagement since 2014 by contrasting the status quo with the results of the Civil Society Index 2014.
  • Development of common strategies to improve the framework conditions with stakeholders.
  • Joint implementation of the developed strategies.

Project Responsibiltites

In an advisory and support body, whose members should be as representative as possible of Austrian civil society, the focal points and questions are defined and the project progress is monitored. IGO takes over the coordination, the NPO & SE competence center the scientific work.

The advisory and support group will be consulted in three stages:

  • To determine the research focus, so that the project treats the most burning issues for CSOs.
  • For feedback on the collected data and intermediate results. The panel should participate in the analysis of the data.
  • To review, review and release the results and recommendations of action.

 Timetable

The project is divided into four phases:

  1. Projektinitiation: Here the partners are identified, the financing secured and a first work plan and budget designed.
  2. Project adaptation: In this phase, the concrete research interest, the goals, the methods and indicators are determined. The concrete project plan and budget will be decided at this stage.
  3. Project implementation: Implementation of agreed research activities, analysis of data, preparation of the report, review and review of results and recommendations by stakeholders.
  4. Action Phase: publication of the results / report; Broad dialogue on possible activities to implement the project recommendations; Development and communication of a policy catalog;

In a first workshop in early June 2018, key stakeholders will discuss which topics are relevant to the Civil Society Index update.

In addition, lessons learned during the first CSI project in 2013 and 2014 will be collected and included in the planning for 2019.

What happens to the results?

With the CSI-RA, we will create a basis for negotiations with politicians and the private sector to improve conditions for CSOs in Austria and facilitate their work. Both the organizations and IGO serve as a multiplier.

For more information, please contact

Franz Neunteufl: franz.neunteufl@gemeinnuetzig.at

Dr Ruth Simsa: Ruth.Simsa@wu.ac.at