The Civic Society Organization Sustainability Index: Challenges for NGOs in Lithuania and in the region

The annual Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index (CSOSI), which has been funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for the past 20 years, informs and impacts the role of civil society organizations (CSOs) within countries.

The 2018 CSO (The term Non-Governmental Organization or NGO is more prevalent in Lithuania) sustainability index reports on legal environment, organizational capacities, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, sectoral infrastructure and public image.

Estonia continues to have the highest level of sectoral sustainability, not only in the CSO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, but in any edition of the CSO Sustainability Index worldwide. CSOs in Estonia, as well as most other Baltic and Visegrad countries, operate within a supportive legal environment, have strong organizational capacities, and are strong advocates and service providers. While financial viability continues to be one of the weakest dimensions of sustainability, CSOs in these countries have access to more diverse sources of funding, including government grants and contracts and individual and corporate philanthropy.

The gap between these ends of the spectrum seems to be shrinking. While CSO sustainability in countries such as Poland and Slovakia, which are at the higher end of sustainability, deteriorated in 2018, sustainability in Azerbaijan and Belarus improved.

In many countries civil sectors are highly polarized, often mirroring deep divisions in society. This polarization manifests in several ways. Most commonly, different CSOs have conflicting opinions, including on highly charged issues. In more extreme cases, governments purposely divide the sector by implementing laws selectively, limiting certain organizations’ access to public funding, providing variable access to decision-making processes, and vilifying CSOs with which they disagree. The biggest polarization among Lithuanian CSOs appeared when discussing child rights and child protection.

Although financial viability continues to be the weakest dimension of CSO sustainability in nearly every country covered by this edition of the CSO Sustainability Index, there were some positive developments in 2018, with half (twelve) of the countries reporting improvement during the year.

Find the latest regional reports here and here. Also, you can find Lithuanian version here.

The report in Lithuania was prepared by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), fhi360 organization and Bendruomenių kaitos centras.

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