USAID conducted an evaluation of ICNL’s activities in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) over the past 11 years. In conducting the evaluation, USAID’s evaluation team visited four countries in which ICNL has been active, Estonia, Hungary, Croatia, and Bulgaria, to conduct in-depth interviews with local NPOs and government leaders. In addition, the team visited a comparison case country, Slovenia, which has only received modest assistance from ICNL, to conduct key informant interviews. A questionnaire was completed by 16 persons from other countries not visited by the team who were attending the ICNL sponsored Global Forum on Not-for-Profit Law. Interviews were also conducted with several individuals at the Global Forum.
From the data collected, the evaluators put together a comprehensive report that is overwhelmingly positive and contains significant recommendations for ICNL’s continued work in the region. Some highlights from the report include:
- ICNL has clearly been a key actor in the development of legislation in the region over a long period of time. ICNL affiliates, ECNL and BCNL have become important contributors to the resolution of ‘second generation’ legal issues. Their involvement has been viewed as extensive, objective, expert, and sensitive to local conditions. ICNL experts bring a comparative overview and international weight that is valued by all sides in discussions.
- ICNL has contributed to sector capacity by enhancing local leader’s knowledge and the priority given to legislative framework issues as a critical part of the foundations for a civil society.
- Interviews with respondents who have worked with ICNL stress that ICNL does two things very well. First, it ‘educates and informs’ by bringing relevant world wide experience and best practices to bear on legal development issues, not just the American experience. Second, it actively develops relationships with all key players in the legislative process, NPO leaders, government officials and parliamentarians. ICNL’s approach recognizes that simply providing informed commentary is only the first step in achieving results.
- While ICNL may be described as an active partner, it has a reputation of never imposing or forcing solutions on its clients. Rather, it uses its authority and persuasiveness to lead local leadership to an acceptable solution that, in the end, will be theirs. This stress on local ownership and responsibility was repeatedly stated by key informants.
- All agree that establishing a supporting legislative framework is a necessary if not sufficient condition for the development of the NPO sector.