CASE STUDIES OF PHILANTHROPY AND GLOBALIZATION IN EASTERN EUROPE’S ROMANIA AND MEXICO
By Dr Olga Lazin
Under communism the nations of Eastern Europe never had a
A 'civil society' exists when individuals and groups
are free to form organizations that function
independently of the state,
and that can mediate between citizens and the state.
Because the lack of civil society
was part of the very essence of the
all-pervasive communist state,
creating [civil] society
and supporting organizations
independent of the state-–[such as] NGOs—
have been seen by donors as
the connective tissue of democratic political culture—
an intrinsically positive objective.
--Janine R. Wedel, 1994, p. 323
[Scholars such as Chris Hann]
criticize the notion put forth by some western scholars and former Central European dissidents
that there was no civil society in Central Europe
during the communist period . . . [because the concept of "civil society”
was not even included in the
Polish Political Dictionary
published in New York in 1980 and
London in 1985. . . .] However, [under communism] civil society
itself continued to thrive at the grass-roots level, although Western intellectuals could not
possibly have been aware of it. . . .
[Dissidents] liked to imagine themselves as the "heroic underdogs"
opposing the totalitarian state. In effect, Hann asserts, scholars were mistaken
in perceiving members of communist societies as atomized and
unable to form an authentic civil society. . . .
[Civil society existed in the following forms:
•official associations licensed by the state
(such as Village Women Housekeepers Association,
Polish Student Association, Polish Scouts, and
professional associations such as writers)
which involved political imposition from the top
but at the bottom involved the possibility of apolitical collective action against the party),
•unofficial associations (including extended kin groups •informal interest groups
(including traditional village families and mutual self-help groups),
•religious organizations (usually but not fully controlled by the party), and
•social protest organizations (which began in the 1956 rebellion for "freedom and bread" and although quickly curtailed by the party, evolved by 1976 into KOR or the Workers' Defense Committee] to help detained workers and
defend those brought before the courts.
--Michael Buchowski, 1996, p. 83
This Chapter focuses on Civic Society’s role in attempting to strengthen civil society in Mexico and to start to build it in Romania, where it was completely destroyed during the communist dictatorship from 1945 through 1989. My argument is that (1) civil society has been able to save itself in Mexico through Civic Action (often supported by philanthropic donations from abroad); and that (2) Civic Society is attempting to build civil society in Romania (especially through the role of the Soros Foundation), civil society that was destroyed in Eastern Europe and Russia by the Communists, who considered Civic Society as “subversive” to Statism.
Whereas Wedel, in the quote above correctly poses the issue facing Eastern Europe, Buchowski completely misunderstands what civil society means. If we follow his definition of the communist pioneers’ organization, the logical conclusion is that the brainwashed Hitler Youth were exemplary members of civil society.
In this chapter we will examine Mexico's new NPPO and NGO legislation and its unique standing as having achieved, through harmonizing its NPPO law with the U.S. The U.S. - Mexico treaty provisions, the mutual recognition of philanthropic spheres, thus facilitating the flow of U.S. foundation funds to Mexican NPPOs. The nascent Civic Society in Romania seeks to influence the Romanian government not only to establish civil society with fair societal rules and rights of appeal but also to follow the Mexican model, which involves working closely with U.S. Treasury to facilitate the inflow of U.S. foundation funds.
Why Mexico? Because it, together with the USA, has created the only international standard that exists to ease the flow of foundation funds internationally—and from the world’s largest source largest pool of such funds, that of the USA.
It is of great interest to Romanian NGOs, as a Latin-based model, the only one in the world that corresponds to the pre-communist laws to which it has reverted after a time warp.
The years 1917 and 1989 offer the benchmarks for understanding the rise and eclipse of centralism, analyzed here in case studies for Romania in Eastern Europe and for Mexico in Latin America. World statism was generated simultaneously by the Mexican Revolution's 1917 Constitutional Model (which still prevails) and the 1917 Russian Model of Revolutionary Terrorism, both of which encouraged the rise of state monopoly that distorted economic, political, and social systems. In Russia and Mexico one-party political and economic systems came to define the dimensions of statist corruption that became prevalent in so many countries worldwide.
With the problems of excessive centralism manifest by the 1980s, statists in Mexico and Romania took very different paths to save their power. Despite a heavily statist orientation, Mexico and Brazil were the largest and fastest growing economies in the world in the period from 1950 to 1980, reaching growth rates of GDP of over 6% per year.
In the Mexico of 1983, the new President Miguel de la Madrid began to bring to a halt the expansion of state power by beginning to permit large private land holdings of production for export even as he began to close or sell some money-losing factories and service companies.
In Romania of 1983, the brutal dictator Ceausescu (1963 to 1989) attempted to deepen his control, thus accentuating the crisis in statism that within six years saw his bloody fall. Ceausescu's drive to increase state income by expanding food exports to the world caused crisis in central government financing of local welfare as well as shortages of staple goods needed by the masses. Thus, by 1989 Ceausescu's dictatorship of extreme state centralism of power at the national level left Romania's thousands of communities in poverty, with civil society unable to think for itself after 40 years of failed central planning.
Meanwhile, half-way-around the world, Mexico faced the problem of statism but one in which civil society had been compromised, not destroyed as had been the case in Romania.
In Mexico the rise of statism had been gradual beginning with President Lázaro Cárdenas in 1934. Cárdenas and those who followed him steadily expanded the size of the State until it owned more than half of the country’s GDP. The statist solution seemed to work for decades and not until 1982 did Mexico’s civil society and its population at large realize that it had been left bankrupt literally and figuratively, albeit, as in Romania, with subsidies from the central government to support the country's corrupt one-party political system.
With the 1982 collapse in demand for oil and raw materials owing to the world downturn after the Arab oil embargoes and quintupling of energy prices in the 1970s, Mexico was unable to borrow international funds, thus "bankrupting" efficient private industry as well as highly inefficient statist enterprises. Subsequent shrinkage of subsidies caused increasing crisis in the living standards for the thousands of Mexico's communities in which the only basis for funding had been the central government. With the decline in size of state economic power, then, the state itself has barely been able to cope with the series of recurring economic collapses caused by earlier central government mismanagement of nationalized industries.
Incapacity of the statists in both Mexico and Romania to maintain their corrupt social systems and command economies, changed dramatically after the fall of the Berlin War in 1989. The unmasking of the Soviet system and its 1991 collapse revealed it to be a negative development model, not the ideal model that ideologues believed to have existed. Now free to act, anti-statists unleashed rapid change in the old Communist World.
"Anti-statism" in Mexico and Romania took different routes from 1989 to 1997. In Mexico, anti-statist leadership led by President Miguel de la Madrid began with timid care so as not to incur the wrath of the highly unionized society that always voted for the Official Party in return for relative privilege of believing that it
“owned” the state enterprises. De la Madrid and his Secretary of Planning Carlos Salinas de Gortari could justify the first privatizations, however, because there could be no hiding that the State was literally bankrupt. Further, the two began deregulating the economy.
As President in his own right from 1994 through 1998, Carlos Salinas was aided by events in Russia. (The USSR’s implosion both dispirited and paralyzed Mexicans who favored statism—their “model” gone from the world scene.) Thus Salinas could accelerate decentralization of state activity as well as massive sale and closure of inefficient industries. Another important aid was the rise of Civic Society dating back especially to between 1968 and 1985 when it had become increasingly clear that civil government was failing. The student strike of 1968 may have been led by some political thugs but the general movement was supported by the middle class actively demanding change in the university system. Then came the women's rights movement and organization of the Doctor’s Strike against the low State’s low salaries.
Finally, in 1985, almost the entire population of Mexico City found itself mobilizing to combat the effects of the devastating earthquake that had hit Mexico City, killing over 12,000 persons. With civil government standing paralyzed, citizens realized that they had to organize Civic Action in order to restore on their own civil society. Thus, they began to provide medical care, distribute food and clothes, and reconstruct housing—simply ignoring government officials who had not been appointed for any expertise but for their cronyism. Civic Society organized into NGOs, the number increasing dramatically each year after 1985.
In contrast to Mexico, the situation saw its great change in Romania in 1989 when “counter-revolutionary Communists” overthrew Ceausescu and his wife (she being considered to be the power behind him) and executed them to save themselves from the revolution against Communism that swept Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In “post-Communist” Romania, the brief spurt of Civic Action that had protested against the Ceausescus to bring an end to their regime was pushed aside by the old-line Communists, capitalizing on the fact that they themselves had conducted the “execution” of the dictatorial couple. Although the old-line leaders officially called for Romania’s de-statification, they took little action against the State’s power and certainly had no interest in forming real civil society. Indeed they were pleased to let the bureaucratic infrastructure and tangle of “red tape” remain in place, with no appeal against administrative indifference or error.
The Glimmer of Civic Society in Eastern Europe
To match the demise of statism, and often to help its demise, Civic Society has arisen in its own right to assume growing importance depending on the country, the USA providing for Eastern Europe perhaps the strongest “model.” Ironically the USA may not be the best model because the “state” never gained the power that it came to hold in Eastern Europe and, therefore not only its law codes but also its experience are so very different.
The basic notion of Civic Society is that the people can and should prevent the civil society (including especially the government) from becoming authoritarian. Civic Society represents that part of civil society which mobilizes civic spirit to “right the wrongs” when they are identified and not resolved properly by government. Some of the “wrongs” are identified spontaneously and some on an on-going basis. (The U.S. American Civil Liberties Union, for example, maintains a standing corps of attorneys that respond to complaints as well as watch vigilantly for possible wrongs.)
The rise of civil society in Western Europe and the USA had been set back by World War I and world economic depression between 1929 and 1939. To face these emergencies, state power was seen as necessary for political and economic defense. In the USA, the New Deal’s mixed capitalism and its expansion of state activity offered an alternative to the rise in Europe of statist fascism and statist communism.
In Eastern Europe, the Western concept of civil society had only partially penetrated by the early twentieth century. There, however, it existed in widely varying degrees ranging from incipient democracy in Poland to monarchy in Romania. In the latter, the nobles and the small middle class exercised civic responsibility.
Expansion of civil society in Eastern Europe, which was disrupted by World War I and remained weak during world economic depression of the 1920s and 1930s, saw its basis for action decapitated by successive German-Russian actions. The Germans occupied Romania as its “ally” by the early 1940s and held it until Romania was caught in the crossfire of German and Soviet warfare in 1944. When King Michael ordered his troops to turn on the Germans, he helped the Russians to seize the country. Then, after the Russians awarded him the Soviet Order of Victory, he was forced to abdicate. Russia ruthlessly suppressed whatever civil society remained and put in its place a fake civil society which it called the “peoples’ government.”
With victory over Germany in 1945, Russia set out to break nascent civil society by Stalinizing Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria as well as Romania. Thus, Bolsheviks and some Socialists conducted a deliberately destructive and brutal campaign to liquidate associations, independent trade unions, and artisan guilds, community groups, churches, and social movements. Among other values, the communists erased the notion of noblesse oblige and middle class social responsibility as they broke both the nobility and the bourgeoisie.
Because World War II had expanded the role of the state in all spheres worldwide, the post-war era in the West had to contend with reinvigorating civil society. By the second half of the 20th century, the English invented the concept of quasi-autonomous government organizations (QUANGOs), wherein the QUANGO is responsible neither to the government nor to the citizenry.
The idea of using TEOs as the basis to establish associations of active citizens as a “space” separate from government has a long history in England and America, such associations being able to mediate between the citizenry and the government as well as among different societal groups.
By the 1970s and 1980s many of these associations came to be known as NGOs. As we saw in the analysis of society’s four spheres (see Chart A in Conclusion), NGOs fall into the fourth sphere, and they may or may not depend entirely on volunteer participation and/or paid staff. NGOs usually attempt to register with the government in order to achieve a tax-free status that allows them to receive donations deductible against the income of the donors--hence the incentive to donate.
That civil society defines the sphere of activity separate from the state clearly emerges in the burgeoning literature on the role of citizens in East Central Europe. Recent books have theorized in different ways about how civil society is defined by the dynamic of and tensions between the state and non-state activity. These authors include Ernest Gellner (1994), Jean L. Cohen, (1992), Andrew Arato (1992), and Adam Seligman (1995).
In such literature the strand of the civil society tradition that is most relevant in Eastern Europe is the one that has called for intellectuals to adopt “Civic Action” to oppose the ruling intelligentsia who blindly support statist power. (Many so-called intellectuals did not want to end the state's heavy hand because they benefited from it.) The majority of Eastern European political dissidents (such as, Miklós Haraszti, Kis Jánós, and Victor Orban) argued that civil society, in its traditional forms, has been endangered by collectivism, statification of social structures, and regimentation.
The so-called intelligentsia who sought simple communist solutions justified its role as serving as the “vanguard of society.” They helped the communists to construct a new class of bureaucratic apparatchik and ruling elites later defined as nomenclature In the meantime, humanist intellectuals who questioned power and opposed censorship were allowed to go on working in peripheral positions, but only so long as they did not overtly challenge the state’s authority.
In its early stages, the process of collectivization and heavy bureaucratization was justified by the intelligentsia who helped the communists preach to the workers that nationalization would benefit the masses. This type of “associatedness” resulted in the destruction of intermediary networks such as independent trade unions. Thus, the complicity of the statist-oriented intellectuals helped destroy the societal networks that promoted civic articulation between the state and society. In destroying the interstitial “tissue” of the social construct in different degrees throughout Eastern European countries, pro-state intellectuals did so because they knew that civil society threatened the very nature of the communist ideology upon which they fed, literally and figuratively.
Well before the communists seized power in the Eastern Europe of the mid-1940’s, some intellectuals (including writers, philosophers, and sociologists) had theorized about the possibility of creating an ideally collective future society, so at first many supported the communist seizure of power. By the time they realized what had happened, the many disillusioned intellectuals who did not want to work for the State found that their time was spent trying only to survive by making day-to-day life livable.
Dissidence was difficult to organize. For example the Polish dissident Adam Michnik built on the movement established originally to provide legal and material assistance to the families of workers imprisoned after the 1976 strikes. .
By 1978, he was one of the founders of the Workers’ Defense Committee (KOR), and he called for a strategy of "self-organization" as part of establishing a Community for Social Self-Defense. Later, KOR became the base for a strategically coherent movement of mass organized protest that would become Solidarity.
The emergence in Poland of several independent organizations began implicitly to challenge the state power such as the ROPCIO (the Polish acronym for its chapter of Amnesty International), the Nationalist Confederation for Independent Poland, and the incipient Free Trade Union, each with their own publications.
In Czechoslovakia, two important political dissident thinkers emerged by the late 1970s. Vacláv Havel called for people to "live within the truth," independently of official structures, and even to ignore the official political . Vacláv Benda called on population to "remobilize" within the civil society. The break with the regime was implicitly contained in the rhetoric of dissidents, but it never reached maturity under the very effective repression by the state. Only later did it constitute itself into a serious challenge to the communist government.
In Hungary, philosopher György Konrad argued in his 1976 book Antipolitics that all power is antihuman, and therefore so is all politics. He called for de-statification and an antipolitical, democratic opposition in his analysis of the issues of transition in East-Central Europe. But resistance to the State did not come until the late 1970s, intellectuals began to oppose the State’s so-called “remobilization of the population to work for the good of communism.” Analysts abroad then began to observe the cleavage between the official system and an alternative “second society.”
The emergence of an embryonic civil society in the 1970s and the 1980s with semi-autonomies and semi-liberties was possible mostly in the relaxed communist environment of Kadar’s Hungary and Edward Gierek's Poland, but it never did develop into a truly autonomous alternative to the power of the state – Solidarity in Poland being the exception, but much later.
Political stirrings in Eastern Europe surfaced gradually, first in rather ensconced forms such as "flying university" lectures and Samizdat publications. Later came participation in informal self-educational groups. The rise of organizations that pursued independent activities and the call for establishing individual responsibility became evident in Poland only where the churches led in creating independent space for thought .
Stirring of Civic Society, then, was beginning to call for rejection of communism, with KOR and Solidarity in Poland embodying full-fledged and convincing alternative to the communist regime. They provided a spark for Civic Society, but could not by themselves bring about the collapse of communist ideology, which would have to wait for the communist system to implode politically and economically in 1989.
Rise of alternative society beyond the reach of authorities had eroded the credibility of the ruling communists, implicitly destroying the monopoly of the state over the society and individuals. Such society had shown a glimmer of life after the 1960s, providing a basis for Civic Society, ironically in the absence of civil society.
The Helsinki Human Rights Accord of 1980 gave hope to dissidents in Czechoslovakia where political activists seized upon Chapter 77 of to anticipate a new type of politics. Eventually they used Chapter 77 to demand human rights, open dialogue, plurality of opinion, and alternative structures, demands that slowly began to weaken communist ideology. Chapter 77 bolstered the call of some Czech intellectuals for free speech, free press, freedom from arbitrary search and seizure, freedom of movement, and judicial recourse against illegal arrest by the police and military.
In Romania, Ceausescu’s extreme repression stunted intellectual protest. Only few individuals such as Mircea Dinescu, Paul Goma, Doina Cornea, and Radu Filipescu took the risk to openly protest against the regime in the late 1970s—but they gained no following. Nor did any organized urban socio-political activity take place in the 1980s.
Once the communists lost power in Romania, his successor Ion Iliescu promulgated Law 42 in 1990 as his “moral duty” to reward those who had helped defeat the dictatorship. The problem that arose, however, was that former communists bribed their way into the reward system, thus creating division and distrust in society and setting back the rise of consensus which needed to make a qualitative shift from collectivism to individualism.
The Romanian Case
The Ceausescu dictatorship (1965-1989) left the country in total chaos. Under the Iliescu regime (1990-1996), debate about modernization of civil society came to life, but effective results were not possible to achieve without the development of a new legal framework.
From 1990-1993, civil society benefited from pent-up demand and expressed itself in an explosion of activity, which simultaneously differentiated and politicized itself during the relative vacuum of power as Iliescu sought to establish his power. This initial explosion was partly the consequence of the fact that political independence was in a sense political opposition and partly an inclination toward a populist "bottom-up" approach to democratic development.
The first three years of Iliescu’s period were marked by the rise of Western-style NGOs, most hopeful that their mere existence would bring foreign grants. Romanian NGOs involved free association of autonomous persons who volunteered to help raise funds to take up the immediate decline in state social benefits. Only a few NGOs were able to gain foreign funding for their plans which called for, among other things, the teaching of democracy, the operation of orphanages, and the networking of ethnic groups.
By 1992 the profile of NGOs revealed an open separation between political advocacy groups and civic advocacy organizations. All NGOs, however, undertook qualitative changes in their activity to achieve "institutional development, capacity building, and sustainability," the goal being to make the NGOs viable and effective.
The problems of Romania’s nascent civil society are complex. First, there are too few competent leaders to staff both government and NGOs so that Romania can compete effectively in the globalization process. Second, NGO leaders are tending to move into politics and business. Nevertheless, notes Dorel Sandor there is a chance that at least some of those who leave the NGOs will use their influence to support the nongovernmental sector.
Although in Romania the pre-communist 1924 Law 21 on charities has been reinstated in the 1990s, it does not regulate in a specific manner the nongovernmental bodies. Law 21 only provides a general, vague legal framework and no categories to encompass modern institutions or communities. This permits corruption and produces misunderstanding of what civil society is meant to be.
Crystallization of NGOs in post-communist Romania demonstrates the viable capacity of response to the challenges of transition. Having initially appeared when the state was impotent, clusters of nonprofits and civil actors spontaneously filled the gap as government activity sputtered.
My Participant Observer’s View at the National and
Local Levels in Romania
My role as participant-observer of social life began in 1983 as a folklore student in the Department of Maramures during my University years in Romania and has continued since 1992 in my subsequent travels on behalf of PROFMEX. In Eastern Europe and Russia I have been able to compare the attempts to create new civil society that matches the de-statification and privatization processes.
What was striking to me, as a student of Ethnopsichiatry during the Ceausescu was to realize that the peasants of Maramures, in Northwestern Romania, were bound together in matters of common self-concern. They had developed a rudimentary civil society of their own in which they took decisions and solved problems by themselves in so called "claca.” Moreover, these peasants had survived the "chopping tactics" of the communist polity that had tried to destroy community spirit. Instead those tactics caused a reaction that reinforced local individualistic energies in most Maramures villages.
This village resistance to collectivization was so particularized in a geographically isolated area, however, that it did and does not provide a model for transition of Romania to a modern pluralistic society. Rather the Maramures experience does suggest that socially-based rural civil society is difficult to destroy because of its dispersed nature. If Buchowski, who is quoted in the epigram at the outset of the chapter had wanted to find civil society in a communist country, he would have done well to visit Maramures to see true collective spirit surviving—not because of the communist dictatorship but to spite it. Thus, my observations directly contradict those of Buchowski.
My travels after 1991 took me throughout Romania and especially to the capital and other urban areas in Transylvania, a region that accounts for 30% of the over 3, 500 NGOs founded since 1990. I realized that the NGO sector then in formation had two levels: the well-organized foreign foundations which were organizing to solve general problems at the national level (such as the Soros Foundation, with offices in the regions of Romania) and the Romanian voluntary interest organizations that were then organizing to solve immediate local issues. The latter are what the Romanians call "form without foundation" or original versions of NPPOs that not only transfer the western models, but also are mainly based on genuine social projects, according to Steven Samson vision is based on research in Albania.
Although countries such as Romania need to develop legislation that permit the creation of very diverse organizations that operate with crosscutting and overlapping purposes, post-Ceausescu Romania has failed to do so repeatedly. Indeed the country’s latest law that attempts to cover NGOs, law no. 32 of 1994, is not in accordance with the requirement of necessities of reasonable functioning of civil associations.
Even with imperfect law, the concept of civil society now prevalent in Romania implies some kind of formal autonomous organization, made up of thousands of constituent associations and charities organizations that compete with the state.
Some non-governmental organizations and think-tanks do seek to provide a check on the power of the state, however, such as the Center For Political Studies and Comparative Analysis, the Romanian Helsinki Committee, the Romanian Society for Human Rights (SIRDO), the League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADO), Liga Pro-Europa, Antitotalitarian Association-Sighet, Academy for Ethnic Studies in Sighet, Civil Protection Maramures, Titulescu Foundation, Association of Lawyers in Defense of Human Rights (APADO), and Academia Civica Foundation. Others make demands on the state for it to pave the roads, extend electricity to villages, install telephones, and provide general services, but they do so without umbrella legislation that legally authorizes and protects their activities.
What is evident from my investigations in Eastern Europe is that after the initial post-1989 enthusiastic phase, the so-called revolution brought many grants from abroad, especially the U.S., British, and French grant-making NPPOs. Since the mid-1990s, however, such international assistance and donations have slowed markedly. Except for Soros, many U.S. grant-making foundations have turned to fund world problems such as disease, as we see in the Conclusion, leaving NGOs disheartened in countries such as Romania. Without a tradition of being able to raise funds in their own country, NGOs that mushroomed in Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech, Slovak Republics, and Poland as well as Romania have in general not received funds from abroad—they had naively believed that by merely organizing an NGO to solve an important problem that foreign funding would be forthcoming.
The most acute problem faced by Eastern Europe’s NGOs, then, is that of financing their activities as they seek a place in the new institutional order. With the slow pace of privatization in Romania, there is not yet any real base of private corporate funding to make donations to Romanian NPPOs, and without provision for secure tax deductibility donations to NGOs domestic funding is not feasible.
Given the shortage of funds, some philosophers and practitioners of NPPO activity are requesting the volunteering of time, not the volunteering of money, and they are narrowing the scope of their activity to moral influence rather than charitable activity.
In this situation, I find that Katherine Verdery’s concerns about the limitations on civil society are valid. Very much in the Toquevillean tradition, Verdery argues that the concept of civil society is linked to the political processes and has become, in the Romanian case, interrelated to that of reconnecting to democratic Western European values. She suggests that the ruling political elites ,who dominate the public sphere since Ceausescu’s heyday, have achieved symbolic capital by having claimed falsely that they suffered under communism, thus overshadowing other forms of a pluralist civil society. In important ways civil society still revolves around national symbols and organization left over from communist rule.
The New Ethnic Role for NGOs in Eastern Europe and Romania
NGOs now seek to play a major role in resolving ethnic tensions. Ethnic problems are exacerbated by the fact that most of the countries are heterogeneous in their ethnic and religious composition. In Bulgaria, for instance, about 1 million of the 9 million inhabitants are Turks; Romani account for some 700.000 and another 400, 000 are Muslims.
In Romania, the shares of the 23 million population are Hungarians 7.1%, Romani 7%; in Czech Republic Slovaks are 3%, and Romani are 2.4%. In Slovakia, Hungarians are 10.7%, Romani 1.6%, Czechs Moravian, and Ruthenian more than 2%. (The latter are persons descended from a marriage between any combination of the following: Ukrainian, Hungarian, and Romanian, aka Ruthenians.)
In the Kosovo province of Serbia, 90% of the population is reputed to be ethnic Albanian, and it seeks to drive out the Serbs in order to declare independence or join with Albania.
Where for decades refused to recognize ethnic differences under the Soviet optic, which saw such recognition as divisive, since 1989 there has been radical change. The European Union encourages Eastern European countries to accommodate regional differences in development, tradition, local circumstances, and the current state of systemic transformations. As András Biro, a Hungarian activist has put it: " For the first time in 40 years we are reclaiming responsibility for our lives.”
In Romania, in the immediate aftermath of the 1989, several ethnically heterogeneous villages (Bolintin, Casin, Miercurea Ciuc) saw the burning of the houses of the Gypsy and Hungarian ethnic minority and systematic murders. On March 15, 1990, the Romanian security and miners, in direct complicity with Ion Iliescu, took busloads of Romanians from remote villages to the city of Târgu Mures, telling them that they were needed to save Romanian citizens there from being beaten by Hungarians during the celebration of Hungary’s Independence Day. When the busses arrived, the Romanian villagers attacked the participants of the celebration and besieged the Hungarian minority’s headquarters. It was there that the playwright Andras Sütö lost his eye. Several Hungarians and Gypsies were beaten and jailed for years. In a gesture of historic reconciliation, President Emil Constantinescu released them in1996 when he took office to try to change the Iliescu policies. Unfortunately the new president did not investigate or publicly expose this case.
It is ironic that only analysis of this troubling case has come at academic and NGO meetings in the USA.
Without any mediating entity to prevent confrontation, a second incident took place in Cluj and Târgu Mures in July 1990, which led the Soros National Foundation to establish in Cluj an office of its Open Society Network to develop social mediation programs.
The general objectives of the Soros National Foundation in Romania, then, has been that of promoting the following objectives of civil society:
- confidence in a state of law, fair government administration, and independent judiciary;
- democratic election of a new political elite;
- existence of a diverse and vigorous civic spirit;
- the respect of the rights and opinions of minorities by the majority.
With these calming idea, the situation in Cluj changed for the better, especially with the appearance of newsletters dedicated to end ethnic hated. Further, by publishing, for example, Korunk for Hungarians in the Cluj area it is important especially to the Romania’s border with Hungary, it aided the development of relatively strong non-governmental associations (such as Alma Mater Napocensis of Cluj-Napoca and the Academy for Study of Ethnic Conflict-Sighet,) all seeking to prevent and buffer ethnic tensions.
Soros had been the main source of funding for civil society in Romania since 1989, and one of its major contributions has been to
EXPENDITURES OF THE SOROS NATIONAL FOUNDATION,
BY SUBJECT AREA, 1997
Area US$ %
Education 2,318,583 28.0
Civil society 1,097,108 13.5
E-mail and Communications 833,956 10.3
Publications 879,350 10.8
Conferences and Travels 745,374 9.3
East-East 100,399 1.2
English Language Program 156,214 1.9
Source: Gautier, Pirotte, “Les Associations de Type O.N.G. en Roumanie. Premiers regards sur l’arene locale du développment á Iasi” (Moldavie Bucharest & Iasi): Université de Liége, June 14 - July 4, 1999, (manuscript.)
Unfortunatelly, the past decade (2005-2015) he is being strongly despised by the nationalists in Romania because of his Hungarian extraction. But his legacy of institutions, and prominent people who graduated from these schools and universities will remain strong and help transparency in a country frought with corruption.
1. Human Resource and institutional analysis 8,730
2. Identification of the Working Groups 8,700
3. Training seminars for the Working Groups 92,340
4. Seminar on Education 2000+ mission and strategy 30,340
5. Seminar on Managing change 31,000
6. Seminar on School Improvement 31,000
7 Working Groups activities 6,100
8. Public Information 18,300
6. General Program activities 5,695
9. Education 2000+staff development and training 8,300
establish the “Education Development Project,” as is shown in Table 6.1 and 6.2.
Since 1997, the Soros National Foundation has been explicitly promoting the linkage of education to the Romanian market economy; and for example it has created the Iasi Job Placement Service to serve as a model for other cities and towns.
In 1999 the Soros fund for summer training at Sinaia of educational leaders involved the funding shown in Table 6.2.
Regardless of the efficacy of the seminar, it was apparent to me that the attendees developed a professional attitude to their studies, during which they spent the whole of each day for a week, with few breaks. The esprit de corps created at this Soros seminar was amazing, certainly motivating the attendees to return to the communities and promote the role of civil society as part of educational renewal in Romania.
The Soros Foundation's branches in Bucharest, Timisoara, Iasi, and Cluj have become autonomous organizations, the activity of which will focus on the following domains: education, health policies and services, law reform, economic development (rural microlending) , ethnic minorities, community safety and mediation, rural assistance, regional cooperation, training and consultancy, arts and culture. All these new systemic changes are composed of an interacting intricate network of professionals in all domains within a dynamic, flexible and easily adaptable network.
The Impact of U.S. Foreign Aid to Romania
In addition to the major funding to Romania provided by Soros, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) entered the scene. Whereas Soros funded Civic Society to organize an effective, modern civil society, USAID funded government development projects.
Thus the question arose in Romania: to what extent should Eastern European nations be copying or moving toward a Western trajectory of development based NGOs? The question was complicated because the Romanian government began to establish QUANGOs (state supported NGOs) in order to siphon foreign funds to official purposes and away from the NGOs.
U.S. foreign aid to Romania has been marked by controversy because assistance focused on democracy overemphasized by the U.S. political model and focused narrowly on NGOs involved in political education (such as the Democracy Network program). Thus, Carothers has argued that U.S. aid has slowed real political reform in Romania, actually prolonging the agony of the Romanian economic and political system. By creating harmful dependency relations and not targeting environmental societies, the ethnic associations, religious organizations, cultural diversity, that are the real basis of democracy, marked a great leap backward.
Against this backdrop, some Romanian “ultra-nationalists” demanded that their countries return to its own “organic evolutionary path,” eschewing the funds provided by USAID to rebuilding of the dimensions of social plurality.
Ironically, then, both the USAID representative Carothers and the ultra-nationalists opposed USAID, if for different reasons, and the amount such assistance was considerably reduced by the late 1990s.
The conflict of USAID’s role only complicated a confused picture about the meaning of free-market democracies, mainly because of the failure of East Europeans and Russians to completely demythologize the Leninist ideology. Although Dorel Sandor claims that the rebuilding and reemergence of segments of Romanian civil society has played a crucial role in the liberation from communist ideology, other analysts such Cohen and Arato (1992) are skeptical, implying that only 15% of NGOs are active.
Mexico as A Model for NPPO Legislation
The course of NGO history in Mexico has taken a very different course than in Romania for two reasons: First, proximity to the USA and the world largest cache of grant-making NPPO fund; and second, the acceptance of President Carlos Salinas (1988-1994) and the U.S. government under Bill Clinton to accept the offer of the U.S. Council on Foundations to help change Mexico’s Tax Exempt Organization laws The goal of change was to makes Mexico’s TEOs compatible with the laws of the USA, thus encourage the flow of NPPO funds from the USA to aid in the development of civil society and Civic Action.
Although some sectors of Mexican society were worried about expanding the role of NGOs because they have been seen mainly as human rights organizations, the main tasks of the NGOs seeming to monitor human rights violations, in reality the NGO situation has become more complicated in Mexico.
There were various causes to the rise of Mexican NGOs.
First during the 1980s, dozens of NGOs tried to accommodate hundreds of thousands of Central American immigrants who arrived fleeing authoritarian governments in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
Second the earthquake of 1985 impelled the mobilization of independent civil movements and NGOs to become the backbone of a renewed civil society. That same year the National Autonomous University of Mexico created a movement for the Defense of the Rights of Faculty; and in 1988 the Government of Aguascalientes established a governmental Commission for Human Rights, at the suggestions of its NGO sphere.
Third, coincidentally trends outside Mexico saw both service and advocacy NGOs increase dramatically around the world in numbers, diversity, and strength. Most important was the rise of issue-networks, which united geographically dispersed NGOs to focus on specific issues such as human rights. Thus Mexican NGOs could support a common cause, say, in Argentina.
Fourth, underlying and paralleling the phenomenon of issue-oriented NGOs has been the growth of the infrastructure-building NGOs that construct organizational and technological links for networking among activist NGOs, regardless of what specific issue upon which each NGO may be focused. Diversification of Mexican human-rights organizations, pro-democracy NGOs, and indigenous-rights NGOs gained strength throughout the 1980s.
In an effort to seek a modern legal framework for Mexican NGOs, the Convergence of Civil Organizations was born in the 1990s.
Simultaneously more networks of NGOs had emerged with different purposes, and in 1994 they began to play a grand role at national level. One major coalition signed the “Pacto de Guadalajara,” which resulted in offering a workable alternative to public housing politics, literally bringing in the state as a promoting agent to finance housing for underprivileged Mexicans.
The Chiapas 1994 rebellion attracted the focus of civil rights groups and sparked one of the most observed Mexican presidential elections in the country that same year. In both events the NGOs played a crucial role. Furthermore, Global Exchange’s exposure of criminal activity by police groups in the State of Guerrero called attention to the fact that “local and national human rights organizations fear that the increased activity by the federal army and the state police forces is part of a strategy to stifle the growth of
opposition political movements." In this networking of NGOs, then, we can recognize features such as: collective investigation, consensual decisions, and implementation of the agreements through action committees.
The NGOs further expanded by incorporating the theme of electoral democracy on the agenda of social change and, for the first time in Mexico's history NGOs helped mobilize voters by the millions, a movement that finally on July 2, 2000, saw the Official Party lose power after nearly 71 years.
Nowadays there are more than almost 5,000 NGOs in all states, with over 180 were being located in Mexico City. The states of Jalisco, Veracruz, and Oaxaca have the most effervescent NGOs activities.
Although, as in Romania, Mexican NGOs are facing the same problems of financing and a poor philanthropic tradition, however, the new government that took office on December 1, 2000, has promised to “unfreeze” in Congress the proposed Mexican law to more fully authorize the legal operation and protection of NGOs.
Although the proposed law is hardly perfect, it constitutes an advance.
Unlike Romania, Mexico has succeeded together with the USA in designing the first international standard for TEO law.
By adopting and adapting the U.S. model, Mexico has gained more than direct access to the world’s largest pool of funds available from grant-making foundations; it can now encourage U.S. companies investing in Mexico to make donations tax deductible in both countries against their Mexican profits. (Mexico has not yet established the U.S. NPPO “privately” funded by a limited number of donors [see Chapter 2] that would allow establishment of an NPPO in Mexico by an U.S. company.)
Most importantly, NPPOs that register under the new TEO law that has been effectively in place since the mid-1990s receive automatic recognition by the U.S. IRS. The first such achievement in world history, we can see in Table A, in the Conclusion of this article.
As suggested in this Chapter, Globalization since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of the statist model has speeded growth of NPPOs in such formerly statist countries as Mexico and Romania. Both of these countries have suffered from outdated laws, but Mexico has advanced domestically and internationally in its TEO law, hence Romania’s interest in the Mexican Model as the only one in the world that has been rooted in the same type of Latin Law to be reformed.
That the attempt to create new civil society is well underway in Eastern Europe is manifest in the numbers. As of 1995 I found in Romania 3,000 more NGOs registered than in 1992. As of 1994, Salamon found in Poland several thousand foundations that were registered with governmental authorities, in Hungary some 7,000 foundations and 11,000 associations.
Starting with the year 2000, Soros Open Network (SON) will formally inaugurate an intricate network of organizations built over the last ten year with the common mission of promoting the values of an Open Society. The Open Society Foundation--Romania is continuing its support for the integration of the Romanian society in the European Union in a new systemic environment, within a new organizational structure.
Link: Octavio Pescador, Diana Hermosillo
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