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Frontpage News 2011 Consultation process on NGO programmes well underway

Consultation process on NGO programmes well underway

Consultations with civil society are currently taking place in the beneficiary states. Strengthening the development of the NGO sector, and enhancing its contribution to social justice, democracy and social inclusion, are central priorities for the EEA Grants.

Funds for non-governmental organisations - NGO Funds - are being established in all 15 beneficiary states, representing around €135 million in funding. To gain a better understanding of the needs and priorities of the sector, and adequately focus the future support, the donor states are organising consultation meetings with civil society representatives in each of the countries benefiting from EEA and Norway Grants.

Vital support

To date, consultation meetings have taken place in eight countries. Whilst the needs of NGOs and civil society organisations vary from country to country, some challenges are shared by all. Enhancing the capacity of NGOs to promote democratic values, including human rights, encouraging civic participation and contributing to a fairer and more inclusive society are central priorities for the Funds. This will include support not only for NGOs providing services for excluded groups, such as the Roma communities, but also organisations that promote civic engagement.

As highlighted during the most recent stakeholder meeting in Greece, the ongoing economic turbulence provides a stark reminder of the need for continued support to this sector. Both the sector, as well as vulnerable groups supported by NGOs, have been hard hit by the crisis.

Next steps

Though NGO programmes will be set up in all countries, the situation varies in terms of how far the work has come. Thirteen out of the 15 beneficiary states have signed the agreements setting out their country-specific funding priorities and allocations (Memoranda of Understanding - MoUs).

However, only two countries - Latvia and Estonia - appointed programme operators for the NGO programmes in their MoUs. In the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia and Cyprus, the process for selecting programme operators will be carried out by the National Focal Points. The Financial Mechanism Office (the secretariat for the Grants) has been designated programme operator for the remaining nine countries but will procure services from an entity in each country for the practical implementation.

Consultation meetings will take place in the remaining beneficiary states in 2012. Poland will be the first one underway with their consultation scheduled for either February or March of next year.

Photo: In the past funding round, the NGO Podané ruce received €50,000 under the Czech NGO fund to finance their work with disadvantaged youth in Olomouc in eastern Czech Republic.