Civil society catalyst in place in Latvia
Through the EEA Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Latvia provide Latvian civil society organisations with a versatile €5.85 million NGO fund, including the first substantial source of grants to cover their core activities.
"This fund will be one of the most important tools to boost civil society development in Latvia," said Nils Sakss, Director of the Society Integration Foundation, which manages the fund. "With the launch of this fund we cover a gap in the overall structure, where Latvian NGOs can apply for funding to implement projects but hardly have a chance to cover their running or start-up costs," he added.
Tailor-made by NGOs
Latvian NGOs have actively participated in tailoring the grant scheme to their needs, giving the fund a prime focus on sustainability. "For the first time, Latvian NGOs and social partners have a substantial source of funding to support core activities," Sakss said, adding: "Our aim is to strengthen these organisations, so that they can work on a bigger scale and implement projects after the funding from the EEA Grants runs out."
The first of a total four calls under the fund was open from March to May this year and sparked strong interest from the Latvian NGO community. All together, the three branches of the fund – the NGO project measure, the NGO capacity strengthening measure and the NGO activity support measure – generated a total 262 project applications.
The most popular among the three branches was the NGO project measure. More than 100 applications were received from NGOs applying for funding to implement projects within the priorities of the EEA Grants. Latvian NGOs can engage in partnership projects with NGOs and social partners based outside Latvia, such as in the donor states Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. In this first open call the received cross-border projects involved partners from Norway, Sweden, Germany, Lithuania and Estonia.
The second most popular focus area in the first call was the NGO activity support measure, under which 88 grant applications were received from NGOs seeking funding for their core activities within civil society development. The third branch of the NGO fund, the NGO capacity strengthening measure, followed with 69 applications from newly established NGOs and NGOs eager to start their activities in a new field within the EEA Grants priority sectors. Organisations supported by the capacity strengthening and activity support branches of the NGO Fund have to present long-term activity plans, and the support is conditional on the implementation of these plans.
Springboard for civil society
Of the overall allocation from Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway to Latvia, ten percent has been earmarked NGOs. The Latvian government is contributing with 15 percent co-financing to the €5.85 million NGO fund. The Latvian Minister for Social Integration Oskars Kastens said that the fund will be a springboard for strengthening Latvian civil society over the coming three years, and underlined the successful cooperation between Norway and Latvia in establishing the fund. Referring to the over 100 NGOs that can be supported under the fund, Director Nils Sakss said: "I suppose that in 2011, when all the projects are finished, we will be able to look at this initiative as one of the most successful supporting instruments for NGOs in Latvia."