Advancing Accountability in Times of a Global Crisis: a welcome message from Accountable Now’s Interim Executive Director

Ilina Neshikj

Interim Executive Director, Accountable Now

Ilina Neshikj joined Accountable Now as an Interim Executive Director in October 2020. She has extensive professional experience that includes the management of the Balkan Civil Society Development Network, a leading regional network of 14 CSOs in the Balkans and Turkey. She has initiated and managed several national, international, and global projects devoted to improving civil society enabling environment, CSOs’ capacities and accountability, and combating shrinking civic space.


Ilina has worked on projects funded by the EU, USAID, SIDA, and private foundations and has led advocacy and research initiatives for more locally rooted donors’ strategies. Previous to BCSDN, she has worked in associations in France and Germany and had professional traineeship at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Macedonia to the Council of Europe. She has a Master in European Studies: Strategic Communication in Europe obtained at the University of Nancy 2, France. 

From 12-16 October we are celebrating Global Accountability Week: a week full of online campaigns that promote civil society accountability by showcasing initiatives that advance the implementation of dynamic accountability. The aim of these actions is to (re)build trust, demonstrate legitimacy and ensure accountability and transparency are at the core of CSO’s work and agree on the standards CSOs should aim for. But at the center of it all, is our aspiration to bring organizations and people together in creating opportunities for them to take part in the decisions and actions that shape their societies.


This year our purpose seems truly vital for the future of civil society. The pandemic has brought about enormous challenges for the civil society sector. We are firstly facing economic repercussions with early predictions on donors’ funding cuts suggesting that organisation’s are going to be enormously affected in the years to come. There have been increased struggles in expanding space for civic actions with restrictions of movement and rising safety concerns. At the same time, it has escalated the encroachment of civic freedoms. The CIVICUS Monitor showcases that restrictions on the freedom of expression and access to information continue all over the world. States have been enacting broad emergency legislation that often limits human rights all the while violations of protest have been numerous.


Despite all these pressures and challenges ahead, the role of civil society is no less important and necessary. The pandemic is reshaping the relationship between states and societies and COVID-19 has intensified the importance of organized civil society action.


CSOs’ direct work with people and local communities has been at the forefront of responses and there is no doubt that in this crisis, they have been actively responding to the needs of communities: they have been assisting those most in need and have contributed towards safeguarding democracy and human rights in times of state of emergencies. Civic activism has also gained force as CSOs have increased their watchdog role over state authorities. Yet, CSO legitimacy is still being questioned with the public having low trust in institutions, including organized CSOs.


The COVID 19 pandemic will be a wakeup call for people-centered action and civil society as a whole. The sector will surely come out of the pandemic looking very different and how we work to achieve our goals might be what will make the existential difference. 


As the new interim Executive Director of Accountable Now I am looking forward to using this year to advance our work in dynamic accountability globally by pushing Accountable Now forward as a catalyst in gathering, learning, and demonstrating accountability in practice and sharing and communicating it with our peers and supporters. This means that we will be prioritizing the development of the Global Standard for CSO Accountability. The Global Standard pushes for collective voices and action to give strength to a global standard for effective and accountable CSOs. Over the next year, we will be exploring ways in which the Global Standard captures the understanding of accountability from CSOs from all over the world to help our members and other CSOs adopt practical ways in using dynamic accountability that puts people at the core of all decisions.


I believe that to advance our aspiration for dynamically accountable sector, we need to carry various actions: undertake research, test practical examples and projects, exchange with and train our staff and partners, and mostly open our work up to the people we work for. We are no doubt facing a challenging time, but it was one that needs continual attention, care and action and I am looking forward to supporting our members and global civil society partners to create open and welcoming spaces for participation, that support those who feel less able to contribute and ensure that we are genuinely listening.

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