Activist Aferdita Hadjijaha Imeri at the Conference “Between hopes and reality”, which is part of the activities for marking CIVIL’s 20th anniversary, spoke about the challenge of what the civil society will be focusing on, on professionalism or on activism.
“I would like to share several things, not so optimistic, but the reality is different. Civil society is heterogeneous, we have civil society organizations that advocate for certain democratic goals, but we also have civil society organizations that advocate for different goals, we have seen this and I think we will be seeing this in the future.
The civil sector was, but I think that it should be more intensively, a corrective element within the framework of what we understand and which we perceive as a representative of civic and civil society and civil society organizations. I think that this voice, that corrective was present, but not so articulated, as it should have been.
In the last period, in the past ten years, we saw that in different social fields old acquaintances from civil society organizations and “new” civil society organization used the same platform, organizing citizens for a certain goal. I will not comment or go any further on how democratic and fair that is.
I will not analyse the period in the last ten years, I will go back a bit more, and that is when I started being active in this sector, perhaps as an activist, but much more as someone who was involved in donor organizations, so I think that, as they say – the level of democracy of a state depends on how developed its civil sector is.
Now, getting back to our country, how much this country has done to enable independent functioning of the civil sector, primarily, I mean financing of citizens and non-governmental organizations. Unfortunately, very little, if at all anything has been done. NGOs, above all, depend on funds from donors, and donor funds are becoming increasingly more difficult and require high professionalism in the work of the NGOs. That is not bad, but professionalism is very difficult to combine with activism.
Making a parallel from 1995/96 and now in 2019, I know that many NGOs that functioned not only in Skopje, but also throughout Macedonia – have closed. Our friends who were activists at heart and were close to the people, to the citizens, now, due to lack of capacity and the will to become professionals in this already highly professional sector, are not as active as they were.
I say this because a challenge is emerging, what will civil society focus on? Will it focus on preparing good reports, writing good proposals and projects for someone to read and evaluate in Brussels or here, that it is enough work, or will it focus on performing activities, activities that are needed in the community.
Rarely and not often we have a good combination of professionalism and activism. CIVIL is one of them. On one occasion last year when I met Xhabir, he said “all right, we have funds for 2 more weeks and we don’t know whether as such we will continue to function or if we will have to close the office”.
Well dear citizens and friends, that is not how civil society is built. The state needs to do more, and this rhetoric that we are all saying should be put into action and with concrete measures”, said Hadjijaha Imeri.
Text editing: D.Muratov
editing: Arian Mehmeti
camera: Atanas Petrovski
photography: Kiril Mihailov
translation: Natasa Cvetkovska
This post is also available in: Macedonian