Jan 09, Colombo: The Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index (CSOSI) for Asia compiled by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) shows that Sri Lanka's CSO sustainability while significantly improved in 2015, is still low with only nearly 1,500 organizations operating.
"Sri Lanka, which had the lowest overall sustainability in 2014, reported remarkable improvements in CSO sustainability in 2015 due to a dramatic opening of civic space in the country after the election of a new president and a new coalition government during the year," the 2015 CSO Sustainability Index for Asia released in late December 2016 said.
As CSOs gained the ability to work freely in the country, almost all dimensions of sustainability improved earning Sri Lanka a score of 4.5 on a scale of 1-7 (1 being the best) from a 5.0 reported in 2014.
The CSOSI has been used by USAID since 1997 to assess the sustainability of the CSO sector in 29 countries in Europe and Eurasia. It measures the sustainability of each country’s CSO sector based on the CSOSI’s seven dimensions: legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, infrastructure, and public image.
The 2015 CSO Sustainability Index for Asia reports on the strength and viability of the CSO sectors in seven countries in Asia: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
Out of the seven countries in Asia, Sri Lanka reports the smallest number of registered CSOs, 1,496 in 2015.
The CSOs faced significantly less harassment than in previous years as legal environments in Sri Lanka changed significantly in the year since the new government of President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January 2015 after nearly ten years of increasingly authoritarian and centralized rule of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the report says.
In 2015, Shifting CSO oversight from the Ministry of Defense to the civilian Ministry of National Co-Existence, Dialogue, and Official Languages resulted in a significant reduction in state-sponsored harassment and intimidation of CSOs. Consequently, CSO-led advocacy campaigns improved markedly in 2015, both in quantity and effectiveness.
With the change in government, prominent CSO activists also took up government posts, reinforcing new linkages between government and CSOs leading to increased consultations between CSOs and the government in the process of formulating policies, the report said.
In 2015, Sri Lanka’s media enjoyed increased freedom, and self-censorship in mainstream print media declined during the
However, less progress was made in other areas of CSO sustainability. The organizational capacity of CSOs remained weak due to inadequate succession planning and poor local constituency building. The financial viability of CSOs continued to be stifled by an over-reliance on donor funding, the report emphasized.
Full report on CSO Sustainability Index by USAID