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USAID analysis: Attacks on civil society organisations on rise in Estonia

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has identified the annual civil society organisation (CSO) sustainability index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, and indicates that Estonia’s earlier rapid development has halted and attacks on civil society organisations have increased.

This year’s analysis by USAID is the 21st of its kind. For a long time, Estonia ranked highest among the countries examined. In recent years, however, nearly all indicators have either remained steady or declined. With regard to 2017, the public image of Estonian civil society organisations has deteriorated, which is reportedly due to increased negative media coverage and attacks on CSOs by politicians.

“A strong civil society is an indicator of a functional democratic system and in general, we can be proud of the sustainability of Estonian CSOs, however, the report draws attention to several areas of concern such as reputational damage leading to a decrease in trust,” head of the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations (NENO) Kai Klandorf said, commenting on the results of the analysis. Recent years’ trends indicate that there is still work to be done regarding nonprofit organisations and civic space, she added.

This year’s index reports on the state of CSO sectors in 24 countries in the region. It addresses both advances and setbacks in seven key components, or “dimensions,” of the sustainability of the civil society sector: the legal environment, organisational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, support structures, and public image.

Compared to the sustainability of Latvian and Lithuanian CSOs, Estonian CSOs maintain a lead by several points. The most consistent deterioration is demonstrated by Polish and Hungarian CSOs.

The report on Estonia was coordinated by NENO.

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