2002 Igaunijas pilsoniskās sabiedrības koncepcijas sagatavošanu uzņēmās Igaunijas Bezpeļņas organizāciju tīkls, kas pārstāv nevalstiskās organizācijas Igaunijā. 2002.gada decembrī šo dokumentu apstiprināja Igaunijas parlaments. Šajā dokumentā definēti pilsoniskās sabiedrības (nevalstisko organizāciju un citu pilsonisko apvienību) un valdības institūciju sadarbības pamatprincipi. Koncepcijai jākalpo par pamatu sabiedrības līdzdalībai politiskās dienaskārtības veidošanā un trešā sektora attīstībai Igaunijā.
ESTONIAN CIVIL SOCIETY DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT
The Estonian Civil Society Development Concept (hereinafter “ECSDC”) is a document, which defines the mutually complementary roles of the public authorities and civic initiative, as well as the principles of their cooperation in shaping and implementing public policies and building up the civil society in Estonia.
Civic initiative has played an essential role in shaping the Estonian nation and state. The emergence of nation’s own initiative in the form of a national movement to establish societies in the second half of the 19th century and the intensification and widening of the scope of this movement made it possible to achieve the national goals of the Estonians, ensured their solidarity and gained further importance in guiding the life of the society. Respect for education, characteristic of the Estonians, took its root in the tradition of educational societies; in joint activities the economic interest was combined with the mutual willingness to help; choral and theatrical societies were the cradle of our professional culture. What is most important, by creating the network of self-initiated organisations, the Estonians created possibilities for taking part in the management of public issues through local governments. The willingness of people to cooperate made the establishment of the Estonian statehood and also the restoration of the statehood after occupations possible. Nowadays, citizens’ associations are necessary for ensuring the continuation of the democratic process with the involvement of all the people of Estonia. Traditionally, free individual and the state have been considered as partners, rather than antagonists in Estonia.
The ECSDC is an expression of the willingness of the public authorities and citizens’ associations to cooperate in supporting and promoting the self-initiated organisation and activities of the people. By establishing voluntary associations, people create new possibilities for expressing their opinions and values, pursuing their interests and goals, for public discussions and also for independently solving their daily problems and offering mutual aid. Taking into account the positions of the citizens’ associations and cooperation with them improve the performance of the public authorities and contribute to the legitimacy of public policies in the eyes of citizens.
The ECSDC is based on the understanding that for ensuring the stability and development of the democratic system of government, the wielders of state power need to hear the citizens and cooperate with as many of them as possible. In decision-making, the wielders of state power have to take into account the specific interests, values and goals of many society members and their associations, and seriously weigh them also in the case, if their sharers make up a minority. At the same time, the historical experience shows that self-initiated activities of citizens have a positive influence, as they lead to a smooth self-regulating functioning of the society. By strengthening the civil society and democracy, members of the society, their organisations and the public authorities can work together for the protection of the fundamental values enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia – liberty, justice and law, internal and external peace, social progress and welfare, preservation of the Estonian nation and culture.
In the ECSDC, the basis of partnership between citizens’ associations and public authorities has been formulated, and a framework for promoting civic activity and strengthening democracy in Estonia has been given.
The cooperation between citizens’ associations and the public authorities under this concept has the following objectives:
1. To promote civic initiative and participatory democracy;
2. To support the idea that voluntary action is one of the essential features in acting as citizen;
3. To improve the awareness of citizens of their economic, social and political rights and obligations and of the ways of their exercise and fulfilment, respectively;
4. To develop the citizens’ sense of responsibility to their family, other citizens, the local community, the state and the world;
5. To formulate the values and principles, which serve as the basis of the cooperation between the citizens’ associations and wielders of state power, to delimit mutual obligations, rights and priorities of action;
6. To establish a favourable environment for the functioning and strengthening of citizens’ associations as an essential factor of the development of democracy;
7. To develop a support system of civic initiative;
8. To propagate good cooperation practices and disseminate the knowledge facilitating the cooperation of public authorities, citizens and citizens’ associations;
9. To more widely involve citizens and their associations in the process of developing, implementing and analysing public policies and legal acts, to develop information channels and mechanisms necessary for that;
10. To acknowledge and take into account the specific rights and interests of insufficiently represented citizens or their unacknowledged associations in arranging the public life;
11. To create an environment supporting charity and philanthropy, and to involve the business sector in philanthropic activities.
For the purposes of this document, the notion “citizens” means all the persons living in Estonia on a legal basis.
For the purposes of this document, the term “citizens’ associations” means various types of organisations, established under freedom of association, which do not strive for profit, such as non-profit organisations, foundations, associations etc.
For the purposes of this document, the term “support system of civic initiative” means an institutional structure (network) shaped in the cooperation of citizens’ associations and the public authorities for ensuring the competence and sustainability of citizens’ associations.
“Civil society” means self-initiated cooperation of people for pursuing their interests, discussing public issues and participating in decision-making processes, as well as the associations, networks and institutions which enable such cooperation.
II. PRINCIPLES AND VALUES UNDERLYING COOPERATION
The representatives of citizens’ associations and public authorities proceed in their cooperation from the following principles and share the following values:
1. Civic Activity
Civic activity, that is, self-initiated and voluntary participation of people in public life and in resolving the problems of their local community, is an essential component of democratic society. The public authorities support civic activity by creating a favourable legal environment, informing the people about their activities and involving citizens and their associations in the planning and implementation of decisions.
Citizens’ associations are channels for representing various values and interests shared by members of society; through these channels, people receive information and express their opinion about proposed decisions. If makers of political decisions conduct dialogue with the general public and take the proposals made in the course of public discussion into account, the level of competence of the public will rise and the legitimacy of the state will be enhanced.
In developing and implementing policies, civic initiative and public authorities have different roles to play; however, their roles complement each other. Public authorities respect the right of citizens and their associations to set objectives to themselves and conduct their activities within the framework established by the Constitution.
Partnership between citizens’ associations and public authorities allows them to effectively cooperate and divide the tasks, in order to more efficiently pursue the interests of the society.
5. Responsibility and Accountability
Acting in the public interests presupposes that both the citizens’ associations and the public authorities reveal openness, responsibility and accountability for their activities and the use of the resources.
6. Political Independence of Civic Initiative
Within the limits established by legislation, citizens’ associations are free and independent in their goal-setting, decisions and activities. On supporting civic initiative from the public sector budgets and foundations, restrictions of political nature should be avoided.
7. Preventing Corruption
On selecting partners of contractual cooperation from, and delegating the provision of services or fulfilment of other tasks to, citizens’ associations, the public institutions must avoid establishment of any relations, which might give rise to corruption.
8. Sustainable and Balanced Development
In their activities and mutual cooperation, citizens’ associations and public authorities proceed from the principle of sustainable and balanced development.
9. Equal Treatment
Citizens’ associations and public authorities respect the principle that all citizens and their associations must have equal access to the possibilities of participation in the public life.
III. WAYS OF ACHIEVING THE OBJECTIVES
In order to enable the achievement of the above-mentioned goals, the ECSDC defines the main obligations and rights, which proceed from the cooperation relation of the public authorities and citizens’ associations and which relate to the acknowledgement and representation of either sides, their partnership, development of policies, use of resources and accounting.
1. Acknowledgement and Representation
Citizens’ associations and the public authorities:
1.1 Define transparent and easily accessible communication channels and inform the interested groups and the general public thereof;
1.2 Do their utmost for ensuring that the public authorities could be responsible to the general public for the efficient and productive use of the resources, allocated to citizens’ associations, and guarantee that the resources would be distributed and used for the intended purpose by observing the rules of transparency and accountability;
1.3 Prevent conflicts of interest of their representatives;
1.4 Create possibilities for citizens’ associations to appoint their representatives to non-political public assemblies, bodies and commissions, and acknowledge the authority of such representatives;
1.5 Acknowledge the role of umbrella organisations and networks of citizens’ associations in representing the shared interests of their members, without prejudice to the right of individual citizens’ associations to represent their interests themselves;
1.6 Acknowledge that no citizens’ association or umbrella organisation can represent the interests of the entire civic initiative sector in relations with the public authorities. Widely acknowledged representative bodies or umbrella organisations in certain specific areas of activity proceed in performing their representational function in their relations with the public authorities from the following principles:
1.6.1 They represent the interests common to the particular area of activity of their members and supporters and explain to the public authorities how they consult their members and/or supporters and how they are accountable to them;
1.6.2 They contribute to the development of an infrastructure, which allows also individual interest groups to express their opinion and convey such opinions to the public authorities;
1.6.3 They present their motivated opinions to the public authorities within an agreed time schedule;
1.6.4 They support cooperation between various parts of the sector of civic initiative.
Citizens’ associations and the public authorities:
2.1 Work in cooperation, proceeding from the principles of openness, trust, tolerance, flexibility and respect for the specific nature of the other party;
2.2 Strive in their mutual cooperation for the representation of as wide a circle of persons as possible and ensure that their representatives are sufficiently prepared for performing their duties;
2.3 Provide the cooperation partner with information necessary for efficient cooperation and clearly indicate, if needed, whether such information is confidential, and guarantee the confidentiality of the information given by the other party on similar terms;
2.4 From the initial stage of defining common interests, agree on the conditions enabling them to use the time best;
2.5 Adhere to the agreed principles and strive for the agreed priorities of their action and employ good practices in their mutual cooperation and inform their supporters, members, employees, customers and the general public thereof;
2.6 Promote and support mutual cooperation through mass media channels and public presentations, and refrain from giving generalised negative opinions.
3. Development of Policies
Citizens’ associations and the public authorities:
3.1 Cooperate in elaborating, implementing and assessing the policies in different areas through their authorised members or representatives, according to their areas of activity and competence;
3.2 Organise the collection of opinions necessary for elaborating policies and initiating legal acts and present these opinions in a systematised and agreed-upon form to the responsible bodies according to the agreed-upon time schedules;
3.3 Take into consideration each other’s experience in elaborating policies and initiating legal acts and consult in their elaboration various citizens’ associations, giving the latter sufficient time for forming their opinion;
3.4 In all the stages of elaboration of various policies and legal acts, assess their impact on the society and the environment;
3.5 Enhance the competence of their representatives for participating in the process of elaboration, implementation and assessment of policies;
3.6 In elaborating the policies concerning minority groups, consider the positions and opinions of the citizens’ associations representing such groups, and involve them in drafting legislation and in debates;
3.7 Jointly shape and observe good cooperation practices in organising the drafting, implementation and assessment of policies and involving citizens’ associations in law-drafting.
Citizens’ associations and the public authorities:
4.1 Use the means at their disposal for promoting voluntary unpaid work and involving, on a voluntary basis, citizens in finding solutions to the problems encountered by the society;
4.2 Ensure that no obstacles are put in the way of citizens’ associations in conducting activities to strengthen their economic basis, as provided by law, and maintain the confidentiality of the business-sensitive information relating thereto;
4.3 Elaborate and make public the principles and procedures regulating the allocation and use of public funds for developing the support system of civic initiative, as well as the corresponding accounting and auditing requirements;
4.4 Use their facilities for promoting and developing a tax policy aimed at supporting the civic initiative and charity, in order to raise the interest of the business sector in supporting non-profit activities;
4.5 Elaborate and make public the principles and procedures for delegating the provision of public services to citizens’ associations and for financing the fulfilment of cooperation agreements between the public authorities and citizens’ associations;
4.6 Use the allocated resources for the intended purpose and do this in an economical and efficient manner.
IV. IMPLEMENTION OF ECSDC
1. The general long-term priorities in implementing the ECSDC include:
1.1 Major rise in civic education and activity, and strengthening of participatory democracy.
1.2 Implementation of the cooperation culture based on the principles of partnership between the public authorities and civic initiative, promotion and wide implementation of good cooperation practices and creation of cooperation network.
1.3 Ensuring the functioning of the support system of civic initiative.
2. The short-term priorities in implementing the ECSDC include:
2.1 Mapping of the conditions necessary for the civic initiative sector and its sustainability, development of the classification system of citizens’ associations and systematisation of the statistical data;
2.2 Mapping, improvement and strengthening of the cooperation and support structures;
2.3 Large-scale promotion of the Code of Ethics of the civic initiative sector;
2.4 Revision of the legal acts relating to the activities of citizens’ associations and drafting of the amendments where necessary;
2.5 Elaboration of mechanisms for involving representatives of citizens’ associations in drafting and implementing the policies in various areas and in law-drafting in general;
2.6 Mapping and streamlining of the system for financing citizens’ associations from the public budget and informing the general public thereof;
2.7 Improvement of the information channels and feedback mechanisms between the public authorities and the society;
2.8 Development of the procedure for concluding and implementing cooperation agreements between the public authorities and citizens’ associations;
2.9 Elaboration of the general standards for the provision of public services and of the principles of, and procedure for, the delegation of their provision to the citizens’ associations;
2.10 Revision and updating of the civic education curricula and study aids, organisation of the in-service training of the teachers of civic education;
2.11 Launching of programmes in mass media about the cooperation of the public authorities and citizens’ associations and creation of a sub-section in the state server dedicated to this cooperation.
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Citizens’ associations and the public authorities use their facilities for propagating and promoting the ECSDC and its main ideas, values, principles and priorities of action, the rights and obligations of the parties to, and good practices of, the cooperation. The public authorities make the knowledge of the basics and principles of action of citizens’ associations an integral part of the qualification requirements of officials.
The Government of the Republic of Estonia and representatives of citizens’ associations will establish a joint committee for launching a system of elaborating plans of action for implementing the ECSDC, for fulfilment of these plans and assessing their results.
Once every two years, the Riigikogu, the parliament of Estonia, will organise deliberations of the implementation of the ECSDC and the development of the civil society as a matter of significant national importance.