Funding for whistle-blowers and challengers in Romania
A €5 million NGO Fund is now in place under the EEA Grants in Romania to help scale up the response by civil society organisations to European disparities. The fund`s first call for proposals was opened on 31 July.
At the launch event in Bucharest on 30 June, State Secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Environment, Heidi Sørensen said it had been Norway`s ambition from the very start to have civil society organisations play a role in creating development in the new EU member states. "NGOs might not always make life pleasant, but they play a crucial role in putting the finger on problems and they make policy-making faster and more interesting," she said, adding: "Never underestimate the power of dedicated people with a passion".
The €5 million fund in Romania, which is financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA Grants, has a split focus on supporting watch-dog activities and developing model projects providing social services.
"We will target areas that are strategically important for Romania. Grants will be awarded to public policy initiatives, activities aimed at further developing issues such as child and youth involvement in the community, social inclusion, cultural heritage preservation, as well as creating responsibility regarding environmental issues", said Executive Director Ionut Sibian of the Civil Society Development Foundation, managing the NGO fund.
NGOs in transition
The NGO fund has been eagerly anticipated in Romania, arriving at a time when other donors are pulling out and shifting focus to non-EU members. "Several grant schemes have closed down and the EU funding is hard to digest for NGOs. We hope this fund will be an easy financial tool for Romanian NGOs, and help this transition," fund manager Sibian said.
The NGO fund will provide funding to Romanian NGOs until 2011, and the first of a total two calls for project proposals was launched on 31 July. Civil Society Development Foundation promises an efficient evaluation process. "Projects submitted by the deadline in October will be started in January 2009", Simona Constantinescu said.
To ensure wide participation by also smaller NGOs, a micro and macro scheme will apply to each of the five thematic areas, with grants ranging from €5,000 to €75,000.
In addition to supplying sustainability to Romanian NGOs, the new fund has set itself a target of creating viable results. A core aim is bringing Romanian NGOs, local communities and public administrations together in solving local challenges. "One of our focus areas is local level initiatives, which need to be carried out in partnerships between local governments and NGOs. If we work on our own it will just be islands of good practices. We end up with applaudable projects, but not the ones that are sustainable on a long term basis", Sibian said.
Norwegian NGOs have engaged strongly in making sure that the EEA cohesion funding mounted in NGO funds in the new EU member states receiving support from the three EEA EFTA countries. "Civil society organisations are crucial stakeholders in promoting a sustainable development," Rasmus Hansson, General Secretary of WWF Norway, said in his speech at the launch event. "NGOs have a powerful ability to mobilise new ideas and challenge established truths. By having the power to set the agenda, NGOs can change politics," he said.
Collaborative efforts by NGOs are also an opportunity under the fund. In addition to pooling ideas with national counterparts, Romanian NGOs have the option of reaching across the country`s borders for project partners from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
- Open call for project proposals
- For further information on the NGO fund in Romania, see Civil Society Development Foundation`s web page
- The NGO portal www.ngonorway.org has been set up to facilitate searches for Norwegian NGOs for partnership projects.
Photo: Kari Ertresvåg, FMO