Greater CSO Transparency for Democratic Governance

Greater CSO Transparency for Democratic Governance

Full transparency of Civil Society Organization (CSO) funding sources, budgets, projects, and missions – this is the answer from Georgian CSOs (both from Tbilisi and regions of Georgia) to frequently voiced verbal attacks on the CSO sector.

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CSO Financial Transparency Charter Signing Ceremony – September 9, 2016

Recent attempts from some government officials and social groups to discredit CSOs (branding them as “corrupt” and “acting against the state interests”), as well as an increasing number of emerging CSOs with unknown and suspicious funding sources, and insufficient knowledge and credibility of CSO work in Georgia[1] has pushed some leading CSOs to institute common standards for promoting financial transparency and increasing public access to information. On September 9, 2016, EWMI ACCESS and Civil Development Agency (CiDA) jointly organized a public signing of the CSO Transparency Declaration, committing Georgian CSOs to regularly publish their income sources, budgets, and project-related information online. The signing ceremony convened the initial 18 CSOs who have committed to this important transparency measure. These organizations signed the declaration and uploaded financial and project-specific information to the newly launched online platform (www.cso.ge). CiDA will oversee the platform to ensure that information is updated on a regular basis and all new CSO users are fully trained on the platform.

Although many leading CSOs publish information on their projects and budgets on their respective websites, the new web-platform allows users to access consolidated data in one space and enables users to receive a comprehensive picture of CSOs in Georgia. This initiative will better inform citizens, policy-makers, and other stakeholders about civil society’s work, and will also contribute to a culture of greater transparency in the CSO sector. The new platform will also encourage less transparent CSOs to reveal their funding sources or explain the reasons for remaining closed.

“[A] similar platform did not exist in Georgia before. The CSO sector is ready to disclose information about activities and funding sources in order to disperse any possible doubts and negative stereotypes about our work. This is a new standard that an interactive web-platform reflects consolidated information about sector’s financing and activities,” – says Mr. Zviad Devdarian, executive director of CiDA and one of the founders of the Transparency Charter.

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Tamar Kintsurashvili, Head of the Board of the Media Development Foundation

In addition, Ms. Tamar Kintsurashvili, Chairman of the Board of the CSO – Media Development Foundation, one of the 18 initial CSOs joining the online platform, commented that, “Many anti-western CSOs emerged in Georgia over the recent years, whose sources of funding are closed and unknown to the public. This platform will answer the questions about who we are, what is our mission and who funds us.”

Fear and doubt of CSOs and their funding streams are common in new democracies, when neither the public nor the government can fully grasp the crucial role CSOs play in ensuring checks and balances for accountability and democracy building. The CSOs Transparency Declaration is the first joint attempt by the CSO sector in Georgia to debunk the myths and increase public trust. Since the launch of the platform in early September 2016, ten more organizations joined the initiative and proactively made their financial information public.

The online platform is administered by CiDA with financial support from EWMI ACCESS.

 

[1] The 2014 public opinion poll done by the CRRC showed that 28% of respondents trust NGOs, while only 19% of respondents could name an NGO when asked to do so and 81% could not remember any of them.

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