A new momentum for NGOs: stakeholder seminar held in Oslo
More than 40 delegates met in Oslo on 7 and 8 June to celebrate the achievements of the NGO Funds under the EEA and Norway Grants - worth €85 million between 2004 and 2009 -and introduce the new programmes which will run until 2014.
Taking place at a pivotal juncture between the closure of the 2004-09 funding period and launch of the new programmes, the seminar brought together NGO communities in both the donor and beneficiary states who have helped to shape the Funds and contribute to their recognised achievements. A new publication 'Empowering NGOs to make a difference', celebrating successes of the Funds was also launched at the event.
Participants included many of the intermediary bodies and operators charged with managing the 19 Funds in the 12 beneficiary countries, as well as some representatives from national focal points responsible for coordinating the overall grants schemes and Norwegian civil society who have been involved as partners in funded projects.
Delivering on key priorities
The event provided an opportunity to demonstrate both the value of the contribution and the unique role played by the EEA and Norway Grants in supporting civil society in the beneficiary states. Showcased projects gave an insight into how the Funds have yielded important successes - not only in terms of individual initiatives, but also in tackling pressing issues of common concern at a broader collective level in each country.
Examples highlighted during the event included:
· Volunteering encouraged through creation of national volunteering platforms in Romania
· Campaigns developed to encourage voters to engage in European elections in Poland
· Contribution to enforcement by judges of anti-discrimination legislation through case collection in Slovakia
· First-time public funding support for lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender associations in Portugal
· National advocacy network created on mental health in Hungary
· Cooperation between the two communities developed in Cyprus
· Social theatre methods developed to encourage participation in local decision-making in Bulgaria
The NGO Funds have visibly delivered on key priorities which are high on political agendas across the board such as human rights, rising xenophobia, sustainable development and environmental concerns. Many of the participants underlined how the Funds have also been effective in strengthening mechanisms of cooperation including support for coalition-building with the public sector, and in developing partnerships. By supporting a network of exchange between the beneficiary and donor states, NGOs have been able to exploit new ideas and draw inspiration from innovative practices elsewhere.
The seminar also presented an opportune platform for taking stock of lessons learned in the previous period. During a series of inspiring workshops, participants were able to share experiences and good practice. Discussions provided a valuable insight on a range of issues - efficiency of practice and selection procedures, capacity building, management and partnership - and many of the ideas raised will be taken on board in the new programmes.
To ensure that success is repeated and built on in the future, the donor states have made an enhanced commitment to NGOs in the period running to 2014. One session focused on introducing the new framework which will govern the NGO programmes in the period running to 2014. Mandatory programmes in all 15 beneficiary countries are being established, with additional support to NGOs also available under other programme areas. In shaping the new programmes, speakers emphasised the value of the consultation and evaluation processes undertaken last year. Input and recommendations have been taken on board, such as the need for more focused targeting of the Funds and greater simplification of management and reporting systems.
At the close, recognition was given to all those who have contributed to making the NGO Funds one of the flagship success stories of the EEA and Norway Grants. It will now be crucial to harness the huge momentum which now exists, through continued engagement and support for NGOs which strive to make a difference, whether at local or national level.
Photo: Ingrid Schulerud, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Credit: Norwegian Helsinki Committee