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CSD in Retrospective: Eight Years in the Life of an Organization

This section is included in the CSD Annual Report for the first time as a brief overview of the institutional development of the Center over the past eight years, and the factors which have had an impact on its capacity and objectives.

Pioneer NGO

CSD was among the first non-profit organizations to emerge in Bulgaria shortly after the political changes in November 1989. It was founded by a group of academics who came from a variety of disciplines including economics, law, social science and international affairs. Initially, the Center's profile was rather broadly defined and included a range of projects in the field of political and economic research, East European studies, ethnic conflicts and book publishing. This thematic diversity was important to maintain a broad spectrum of research orientations in order to strengthen the overall institutional capacity of the Center. The diversification of interests was the first step in the process of an identity search which later turned out to provide longer term benefits.

By 1992 CSD had assumed a prominent position among the Bulgarian NGO community. The growing opportunities for a closer and more focused professional involvement of NGOs in the reform process in Bulgaria made it necessary to pursue greater concentration if CSD was to stay at the forefront of independent public policy research. As a result, the activities of the Center were restructured into three programs - Economic, Law Reform and Sociological Program - which allowed for greater specialization and still preserved a cer-tain level of flexibility. This structure has remained fairly constant to date except for the establishment of an Information and Documentation Centre on the Council of Europe which CSD has hosted since December 1993 and a greater interest and concentration on European policy studies since late 1994.

"Democracy in a state is dependent on the quality of society. That points to the significance of CSD and of civil society in Bulgaria in general. Their role is to build this quality. For only society that is independent of the political society guarantees the liberty to express oneself freely. The work of CSD and other NGOs in Bulgaria is to be highly appreciated. Let me congratulate you with the great pioneer work you are doing."

Dr. Arie M. Oostlander,

Member of the European Parliament

Being one of the first NGOs in the country CSD has had a strong impact on the development of the voluntary sector as a whole. Many of the founding members of CSD have subsequently established their own organizations, among which the Access Association, Center for Social Practices, and the Center for Economic Development figure prominently. As most pathways in the NGO sector had been unexplored, at the time the institutional development of CSD served as an example and provided know-how to many NGOs. Sharing its own experience and expertise has since been CSD's main contribution to the development of the NGO sector in Bulgaria. This is especially true for the field of financial management and transparency where CSD has offered specialized training courses to NGO professionals and financial managers for a succession of years.

Nonpartisan organization

Professional performance and nonpartisanship have in combination contributed to the solid reputation of CSD both domestically and internationally. These have become key assets of CSD as a think tank allowing it to make a continuing and consistent impact on the reform process in the country. Nonpartisanship is also the main factor for the credibility of the research and policy recommendations produced by CSD. The persistent maintenance of this position has contributed to the image of CSD as a competent and trustworthy source of information and expertise as well as one of the major proponents of the democratic transition and economic reform process in the country.

CSD's financial independence has backed nonpartisanship in an environment where the very notion of a politically and financially autonomous NGO has been regarded with mistrust and suspicion. Although the last couple of years have witnessed improved interest of the public administration in cooperating with the non-profit sector, NGOs are still rarely perceived as serious partners and major vehicles of democratic development.

Diversification of the funding sources - both US and West European - has been a major factor for the stable growth and sustainable development of CSD. In the first years of transition the majority of the funding came from US private and governmental institutions. On a broader scale, this was true for the whole NGO community in Bulgaria and in Eastern Europe and has affected the organizational model adopted by many NGOs. The US was quicker to respond to the changes in civil society in Eastern Europe and it was instrumental for the establishment of many think tanks in the region. Since 1995 CSD has expanded the geographical scope of its partners and sponsoring institutions. Along with the support of US organizations it now receives a substantial amount of funding from the European Union programs. This shift of balance comes at a time when Bulgaria strongly emphasizes the high priority of its accession to the European Union. It is also the result of increasing EU attention and funding devoted to the associated states in Central and Eastern Europe.

The value of nonpartisanship is evident not only against the background of the volatile political environment of recent years but also in view of the impact which a nongovernmental policy institute aims to achieve. Despite having to operate under the constraints of available funding, CSD's independent, and diverse, research and advocacy agenda allowed it to grow into a full-service Bulgarian think tank.

"The Center for the Study of Democracy has been at the forefront of economic research and advocacy in Bulgaria in the past seven years. Its studies and policy recommendations have provided valuable assistance to the governments in office, to parliamentarians, policy and decision makers. The series of outreach activities held at CSD have contributed to an informed public debate on democracy and market reform issues. Few organizations in the country could equal this expertise, as well as CSD's public standing and democratic credentials of a leading independent policy institute."

Mr. Stefan Sofianski,

Mayor of Sofia


On the whole, diversified funding has enabled CSD to utilize experience and credentials accumulated through the years, bypassing the need to constantly remodel priorities parallel to the strategies of donor organizations. Stable organizational identity has on the other hand made it possible for the organization to build long-term career oriented relationships with its permanent and part-time staff.

Full-service think tank

Following the logic of sustainable organizational development with a long-term commitment focused on the advancement of democratic transition and market-oriented reforms in Bulgaria, the Center has gradually accumulated an extended set of institutional capacities. This is probably the main reason why CSD has recently been termed "one of the few full service thinks tanks in Eastern Europe".

The long-term commitments of CSD are reflected in its current organizational structure: it includes four core programs - Economic, Law Reform, European and Sociological. Each of these programs is a research unit in its own right but it is also a source of support and valuable input for the operation of the others. In this way CSD is able to collect primary data through survey research, examine policy options and implications, construct policy recommendations in legal format, and carry out targeted advocacy.

Areas of achievement

CSD has been one of the most active participants in the effort to reform the legal and regulatory environment for privatization and private sector development in Bulgaria since 1991. The scope of activities of its Economic Program are broad and cover all major aspects of economic transition - mass and market-based privatization, municipal privatization, foreign investment, debt conversion and migration of laborers. The main task is to influence economic policy and legislation and to perform a watchdog function with respect to the reform process. These objectives are pursued through a range of research and advocacy activities, practical assistance to institutional development and relevant legislative reform, dissemination and training.

In its eight-year history, the Program boasts a long list of achievements, among which include a program for Regional Development and Municipal Privatization in the region of Bansko in Southwestern Bulgaria, a National Mutual Fund, adopted by the Council of Ministers, an Agriculture Development and Assistance Fund, adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture, and policy recommendations for expanded Bulgarian-US trade and economic relation, presented at the US-Bulgaria summit in Washington, D.C. in February 1995.

"In a difficult year of economic decline, political transformation, and renewed commitment to democratic and economic reform, the Center for the Study of Democracy, has been an active participant in Bulgaria's transformation to an open market-based democratic society. Through its research and advocacy campaign, the CSD has provided the forces of reform with clear and independent guidance in creating the instruments of a market economy which will help speed Bulgaria's reform process, while ensuring best practices are adopted. The Center for International Private Enterprise is pleased to support CSD in its invaluable work and contribution to Bulgaria's growth and transformation."

Dr. John D. Sullivan,

Executive Director,

Center for International Private

Enterprise (CIPE), Washington, DC


The Economic Program's achievements since 1991 include:

  • preparation of policy recommendation papers on the regulatory reform of privatization and foreign investment;
  • organization of policy-oriented seminars and workshops on municipal privatization, investment funds, mass privatization, foreign investment, debt management and the efficiency of consulting firms;
  • preparation of Reform Round Table papers exploring some of the most pressing issues of the economic reform in Bulgaria: tax reform, inflation and pricing policy, agrarian reform, social security and the labor market.

In 1994-1995 the Program developed a fully-fledged Debt Conversion Program to assist Bulgarian authorities in drafting the arrangements for Debt - Equity Swaps by combining the existing legal framework for privatization with the new regulatory framework, institutional setup and swap mechanisms.

The Privatization and Foreign Investment Monitor published by the Economic Program of CSD is a digest of publications about privatization and economic reforms in Bulgarian mass media.

The CSD Law Reform Program was established in the early spring of 1991. Initially its efforts were directed primarily to establishing and supporting the contacts between the Bulgarian government and foreign assistance groups, such as the American Bar Association Central and East European Law Initiative, the International Development Law Institute in Rome, the German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation and others. The initial focus of the Program was constitutional law reform. With the enactment of the new Constitution in the spring of 1991, the emphasis in the activities shifted towards commercial law reform. During the past six years, the Program gradually developed into a legal reform agent with a considerable law drafting record.

Among the major achievements of the Program is the development of a Law on Registered Pledges, passed by the National Assembly in November 1996, and Draft Law on Non-Profit Organizations. In a more recent development, the Program has embarked on the elaboration of the tax legal framework for non-profit organizations and has started a strategic long term effort in the area of approximation of Bulgarian law to EU legislation.

The Law Program has provided the government with expert comments on more than thirty draft laws and with a series of concept papers introducing leading international concepts on the legal framework for investment funds, foreign trade regulation, government procurement, securities regulation and fighting money laundering. Aiming to facilitate the transfer of advanced legal expertise the Program also organizes educational seminars for the Bulgarian legal community.

Issues in Bulgarian Law, the Law Program's publication series have so far covered diverse areas such as foreign investment law, in-kind contributions in commercial companies, privatization, government structure and operations and bankruptcy.

The CSD Sociological Program has been at the forefront of social research in Bulgaria since its inception as a research unit in the late autumn of 1989. In 1990, it conducted the first ever independent pre- and post-election surveys in the country. The Program's track record includes over 95,000 face-to-face interviews, 14,000 telephone interviews, 300 in-depth interviews and 80 focus groups nation-wide.

The Program was transformed into Vitosha Research, an independent survey research unit, at the end of 1994 to give new direction to its work and to deepen its concentration in the field of market research. Vitosha Research now specializes in ad-hoc social and marketing research and consultancy services covering a broad range of activities - monitoring privatization and economic behavior, gauging political attitudes, determining value orientations, conducting media and audience research, advertising studies and others. It is among the founding members of the Bulgarian Association of Market Researchers.

Today, Vitosha Research makes use of a national interviewer net of about 350 professional interviewers which is regionally based and consists of 28 teams. It has established working relations and research cooperation with institutions including the BBC World Service, USIA Office of Research, InterMedia (USA), the World Bank, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Democracy Network Program, to name but a few.

With Bulgaria's EU association status, the need emerged for expertise and policy analysis facility to support the inauguration of a long term accession strategy. In view of its institutional capacity as a leading think tank and its expert network established under a diversity of previous public policy and legislative projects, CSD's assistance was solicited by the government to carry out a pioneering assessment of Bulgaria's readiness for integration.

CSD's efforts in the field of European integration began with the launch of its project Europe 2000: Bulgaria and the European Union in late 1994. This project started as a pioneer analysis of issues related to the implementation of Bulgaria's EU Association Agreement under a Service Contract with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and later evolved into a comprehensive long-term effort aimed at facilitating Bulgaria's accession to the EU.

Following a succession of policy and outreach projects, in the period 1996-1997 it developed into a European Program of CSD. Focusing on the policy and approximation of law aspects of accession, for a relatively short period of time CSD managed to make a significant contribution to an enhanced institutional and policy capacity in Bulgaria for a successful European integration process. CSD has produced public policy analysis and recommendations in over 20 sectors of integration based on the EU White Paper on the integration of Central and East European countries. The White Paper, which is the key approximation of law document for accession preparation, was itself translated by the Center shortly after its publication by the European Commission in 1995.

Since 1993, CSD has also hosted the Information and Documentation Centre on the Council of Europe in Sofia. Established jointly with the Council of Europe and the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it was inaugurated on December 13, 1993 in the presence of Ms. Catherine Lalumiere, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Dr. Zhelyu Zhelev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria.

The purpose of the Information Centre is to assist the Council of Europe's activities in Bulgaria, aimed at promoting democratic values, human rights pluralist democracy and the rule of law. It maintains a rich documentary collection and online link with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Its activities cover a broad range of issues, including human rights, social issues, education, culture, sports, youth, mass media, and local self-government.

The Information Centre has published a number of translations and publications of Council of Europe documents, including the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and other major documents.

In addition to its activities in the field of policy and legislative reform, CSD has invested considerable effort into its book donation initiative as the Bulgarian partner to the U.S. Sabre Foundation since November 1990. The Sabre Foundation collects university level textbooks and other specialized books published in the United States within the previous three to four years, and ships them to Bulgaria for free distribution. For its part, CSD is responsible for selecting the most useful and relevant titles for Bulgaria.

Since 1990, CSD has donated over 180,000 books and textbooks worth more than million to a total of 420 institutions and 7,600 individual recipients. The books are processed and distributed to universities, research institutes, secondary schools, public libraries, hospitals and health centers, and to thousands of individual recipients. The Open Society Foundation, Sofia contributes to the cost of book processing and distribution.

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The rich experience of the Center for the Study of Democracy through the years since 1990 has formed its institutional personality today - a truly interdisciplinary public policy institute with a sound reputation for its reliable research data and independent professional analyses of the major aspects of Bulgaria's transition to democracy and market economy. The contact we have maintained with our partners and friends through the Annual Reports has been a major factor in this process.

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