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  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Open Society Foundations
  • Abstract: Since the 1990s, election observation has become a vital tool of the international community to support democracy and assess the legitimacy of governments. Observers receive better pre-deployment training and briefings, funding is more readily available, and methodologies have grown more sophisticated. Yet, as the election observation industry has become more professional, democracy is in decline. The European Union needs to be more strategic as both a donor and a provider of election observation. This policy brief, authored by the external policy team of the Open Society European Policy Institute, proposes six areas of reform, which include monitoring of the political processes leading up to polling day; improving collaboration with observers at a local level; strengthening and supporting the role played by civil society; setting stronger guidelines for the digital arena; developing guidelines for technology used; and finally, striking a new balance between the observation missions’ technical and political mandates.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Science and Technology, Elections, Democracy, Election watch, Digital Policy, Presidential Elections
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Open Society Foundations
  • Abstract: The decision to be a whistleblower is not easy. Mental trauma, the risk of retaliation, the potential loss of employment or ostracization by work colleagues—not to mention the impact on one’s personal life—all weigh heavily on the individual who decides to speak out for the common good. But when potential whistleblowers feel too vulnerable to act, it's society itself which suffers. In this report, whistleblowers from eight European countries describe what they experienced after they took a stand. Additionally, civil society experts weigh in on how the EU can craft policies to better protect whistleblowers. The question of how to define whistleblowing—does it apply to sexual harassment, can NGOs be considered whistleblowers, and so on—is also explored. The report ultimately recommends an EU-wide directive on whistleblowing, which it argues would give whistleblowers the protection they need to step forward. The report also argues that a multi-level, multi-stakeholder approach would emphasize the value of whistleblowers and the crucial role they play in a healthy open society.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Intelligence, NGOs, Transparency, Whistle Blowing, Secrecy
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Iskra Kirova, Sabine Freizer
  • Publication Date: 05-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Open Society Foundations
  • Abstract: The EU’s “eastern neighbourhood” is an increasingly complicated and contested space. The challenge of Russia’s resurgence and regional elites’ resistance to reform are forcing the EU to reevaluate its policies. With the launch of its Eastern Partnership six years ago, the EU was ready to offer its neighbors to the east—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine—integration into the EU market, mobility of people, and close political ties in exchange for rule of law and democratic and economic reforms. Today, it questions whether this policy has secured its strategic interests and political influence. The Eastern Partnership reinforced domestic constituencies for change in at least three partners—Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine—that in 2014 signed association agreements. It has not lost the potential to contribute to democratic processes and support reformers in the other three: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus. The Eastern Partnership remains the EU’s most effective foreign policy instrument to build accountable and stable institutions and states, and uphold the EU’s commitment to its neighbors’ sovereignty and right to make independent foreign policy choices. This policy paper—the result of extensive discussions with experts and civil society leaders—highlights local concerns and expectations about the EU’s role in the region and its support for stability and democracy. As the EU rethinks its policies in the area, this paper offers recommendations on how to make the Eastern Partnership more effective and relevant to people, societies, and government, and to secure the EU’s interests in an increasingly polarized and unstable region.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Nationalism, Regional Cooperation, European Union, Democracy, Economic Policy, Elites, Economic Integration
  • Political Geography: Europe, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus
  • Author: Israel Butler
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Open Society Foundations
  • Abstract: The European Parliament election results show a rise in apathy and hostility towards the EU. A fundamental rights strategy could help to boost the Union’s legitimacy in the eyes of the public. EU institutions should jointly adopt a strategy that highlights the benefits for citizens of rights conferred at EU level. A strategy would allow the Union to meet its overarching goal of improving the well-being of its peoples and improve its credibility when promoting human rights with third countries. The strategy should be structured around measures to respect, protect and promote fundamental rights to the fullest extent allowed by the Union’s powers. To develop and implement the strategy, the institutions should engage in regular and structured dialogue with the United Nations, Council of Europe, Fundamental Rights Agency, and civil society organizations.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Human Rights, United Nations, European Union, Political Rights
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Open Society Foundations
  • Abstract: The new leaders of the EU’s institutions face immediate and major challenges—from conflict in the EU’s surrounding region to rising xenophobia within its own borders—that have major implications for the future of Europe’s open societies. The European Parliament elections in May 2014 led to a turnover of half of the body’s members and the intake of many more xenophobic populist parties. The European Commission—the EU’s executive body—has a new president and College of Commissioners who will need to find new approaches to employment, inclusion, and development. The new European Council president will also have a tough job finding consensus among EU heads of state and government on issues ranging from relations with Russia to economic governance.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Race, Minorities, Discrimination, Xenophobia, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Open Society Foundations
  • Abstract: The Arab Spring was a timely reminder to the EU of its own transitions, in particular events post-1989, and how civil society was at the heart of all of them. The EU now intends to foster a “partnership with societies” in its eastern and southern neighborhood, in part by creating a facility to provide dedicated support to ensure civil society organizations can monitor reform and participate effectively in their own national debates. The Open Society Institute-Brussels has assessed current proposals, identified challenges, drawn lessons from experience, and identified six areas that will be integral to an effective Civil Society Facility within the Neighbourhood Policy: Funding for civil society needs to be accompanied by political support for CSOs (e.g. statements and tripartite meetings on pressing issues). In order to build capacity the principle EU actor (the EU delegation in-country) needs capacity of its own. Consultations with CSOs are useful if they are planned, regular and genuine—particularly in-country. Supporting local ownership through channeling funds to existing resources (e.g. providing existing networks with logistics and strategic funding) is more effective than putting in place new, parallel structures. Investing in structures that continue beyond the Facility implementation period (e.g. providing 3-4 year core support to develop CSO institutional capacities or putting in place offices to facilitate civil society-government links) will enable national CSO champions or standard-setters to emerge. Paying close attention to the local CSO sector, political and donor context to better meet needs and avoid supporting either less-relevant issues or government-organized organizations. An engaged and robust civil society which holds governments to account is increasingly both a mechanism and a goal of EU foreign policy. Upgrading the EU's relationship with civil society from benevolent paymaster to a strategic investor in partnerships for change will pay dividends to the societies which are transforming in its neighborhood as well as to the EU itself. For a genuine shift towards a “partnership with societies,” maximum local participation and ownership has to be matched by maximum political and practical commitment from the EU. This could be the essence of a real and mutually beneficial partnership.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Regional Cooperation, Governance, European Union, Accountability, Funding
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Open Society Foundations
  • Abstract: The European Union has asked for proposals from the Commission and High Representative to establish a European Endowment for Democracy (EED). Various options are being discussed in Brussels; from potential recipients, to geographic scope, to thematic focus. The debate surrounding the EED provides an opportunity for EU support to civil society to become more extensive and flexible than allowed under current funding rules. The possible creation of a Convention or new agency, and/or the reform of the financial regulation affecting current funding instruments (in particular the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights), deserve support if they offer less burdensome mechanisms for non-governmental actors to access and manage EU funds. This discussion paper explores the potential added value of the EED in relation to the actors and scope of activities currently supported by the EU, and how it would add value to existing modalities of support to civil society. The most valuable outcome of this debate, regardless of whether an EED is established, would be if EU support became more responsive to the needs of the actors working in support of human rights and democracy.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Human Rights, European Union, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Open Society Foundations
  • Abstract: The Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES), now in its second three-year Action Plan, has the potential to enhance the Africa-EU strategic partnership but has yet to deliver. The Open Society Institute-Brussels has taken stock of JAES progress in the policy area of democracy and human rights. This paper presents two main conclusions: significant involvement of civil society in the process is still hampered by the overlap of several institutional cultures and structural limitations; and the encounter of two distinct continental approaches to issues of democracy and human rights requires long-term commitment and adaptation on all sides if there is to be real progress. The strategy is in hibernation and the intended paradigm shift—to fundamentally alter European and African relations—has not really taken place. This paper develops a series of recommendations to address this inertia. These include a more political rather than technocratic approach to the partnership; improvements of information flows, outreach and transparency; independent assessments and monitoring of action plans; and closer attention to donor accountability.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Human Rights, International Cooperation, Governance, Partnerships, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Africa