The Guidelines for EU support to civil society in enlargement countries, 2014-2020 states that an empowered civil society can play an important role in ensuring these principles are upheld in practice. It is also in itself a crucial component of any democracy. By articulating citizens' concerns, civil society organisations (CSOs) - understood as all non-state, not-for-profit structures in which people organise to pursue shared objectives and ideals – are active in the public arena and engage in initiatives which foster pluralism and further participatory democracy.
The enlargement countries face a range of challenges, especially in fields such as the rule of law, corruption, organised crime, the economy and social cohesion. Civil Society actors and organisations can make a substantial contribution to addressing many of these through their lobbying, advocacy and oversight activities at national, regional and local level.
When it comes to democratic governance and the rule of law and fundamental rights, including freedom of expression & association and minority rights, they can create demand for enhanced transparency, accountability and effectiveness from public institutions and facilitate a greater focus on the needs of citizens in policy-making. CSOs in the region have also demonstrated their ability to initiate effective anti-corruption initiatives, contribute to regional integration and reconciliation processes, support independent media, campaign for gender equality, fight against discrimination, and promote social inclusion and environmentally sustainable policies and practices.