As the COVID-19 pandemic hits societies and economies, bringing a global and unprecedented public health and social crisis, civil society organisations (CSOs) are responding by providing frontline help and defending the rights of people across the world. At the same time, CSOs have faced themselves profound impacts that may harm their capacities to continue playing their central roles in delivering services, advocating for rights and protecting the most fragile, while safeguarding participatory democracy and civic debate in the near future.
In this context, the present study commissioned by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) at the request of the Diversity Europe Group has a twofold goal: 1) to shed light on the effects of the pandemic and the measures put in place by European countries to contain the virus spread on CSOs and their activities; 2) to collect quantitative and qualitative relevant information about the reactions of CSOs across Europe, through a mixed method combining desk search and the administration of an in-depth online survey of the EESC Diversity Group members, as well as similar CSOs as per scope and mission.
The resulting mapping of new and adapted services and initiatives carried out by the CSOs participating in the study, triangulated with the findings of several recent studies and reports, allows for a thorough understanding of the main challenges faced by the CSOs and their members and users, as well as the enormous contribution made by CSOs in helping to cope with the consequences of the pandemic. Moreover, the study highlights key topics, such as the lack of stable funding streams, legal frameworks and adequate resources and skillsets to take full advantage of the ongoing digital transformation while leaving no one behind, which will require future reflection and bold political decisions to make sure that CSOs' capacities are maintained and strengthened in the post-COVID-19 recovery phase.