Civic society home and away
The Concept for the Development of Civil Society (EKAK) was adopted on 12 December 2002 after a long period of discussions.
Along with the Constitution, this document is one of the few official documents that describes the positions of Estonia’s Riigikogu on core ideological developments of our political system and democracy. EKAK is based on the understanding that in the name of a lasting and developing democratic regime, the public sector needs to hear its citizens and co-operate with as many of them as possible. In decision-making, the public sector must consider the special interests, values and goals of the members of the society and their associations, and take them seriously even if they are in the minority. In this way, EKAK expresses the commitment of our political leaders to the progressive ideas of the participatory democracy.
For the implementation of the EKAK, a joint commission was created from representatives of the executive power and non-profit organizations which started its work in 29 October 2003. The writer of this article analyses some aspects of the preparation and implementation of the EKAK in comparison with similar processes involving Compacts in the UK and of the Accord in Canada. He argues that despite the similarities of the processes, there are several important differences in the approaches and in real organization of the cooperation. First, the executive power was almost a non-participant in the process of preparation of the EKAK—the Estonian non-profit sector worked mainly with the political parties and the Riigikogu. This caused a rather long delay in forming the joint commission and establishing its agenda with regard to governmental activities. Another important problem is that the Government did not recognize in every aspect the idea of equal partnership in organization of the work of the joint commission as it was done in Canada and the UK. For example, the government nominated by itself NGO members to the joint commission and did not accept co-chairmanship of the commission. One of the factors which makes such behaviour possible is the weaker identity, organizational level and self-consciousness of NGOs in Estonia. The idea of independence of NGOs is also not as strongly established in Estonia as in the UK and Canada.
But the most disturbing difference is that there is very limited financing of the joint commission’s work. In Canada and the UK the work of both joint working bodies was financed by the government. In Estonia’s case, the governmental financing is very limited and does not even cover the travel costs of NGO members of the commission. It is also almost lacking financing for the research. This is in direct contradiction with the very essence of the EKAK and must be changed.