New NGO programmes: important civil society consultation
In the shaping of the new programmes for civil society, this autumn’s NGO consultation proved a useful tool for reaching out to civil society in the beneficiary states and ensuring a bottom-up approach to the funding.
Among the recommendations in the evaluation of the 19 NGO funds supported in the period 2004-09 was to ensure stakeholder consultations contributing to a bottom up approach to future support. In parallel with the consultation with the beneficiary states on the new regulatory framework, an online consultation was held in the period September-November 2010 with the civil society sector on the future funding to NGO programmes that will be established in all 15 beneficiary states.
Input from the consultation served to finalise key documents in the preparation for the future funding period, and particularly to bring the NGO programme guideline (will be made available shortly) and the overarching Regulation in line with the identified needs of civil society in the beneficiary states.
Autonomous bodies as programme operators
The responses, either posted directly in the NGO consultation forum or submitted via email to the Financial Mechanism Office (FMO), expressed a general satisfaction with the overall proposals, both in terms of policy focus, which is considered to be well-chosen and adequate to meet the needs in terms of strengthening the sector, and in terms of procedures and structures proposed, particularly in suggesting autonomous bodies to operate the programmes.
Reducing the impact of the economic crisis
Respondents, mainly national NGO umbrella organisations, also pointed to the need to make use of the funding to reduce the impact of the economic crisis and related austerity measures particularly on the most vulnerable groups in society. The reduction in available funding particularly to grassroots organisations and advocacy or watchdog organisations is much felt, and the new programmes are seen as a key opportunity to strengthen the sector and its contribution to democratic principles.
Overall, the responses confirmed that while a clear frameworkand clear guiding principles are needed, it is also important to ensure flexibilityand adaptation to the specific needs at national level and to the specific nature of the sector. Results-based management approaches are seen as appropriate to ensure consistency while allowing for flexibility, better information flow and better impact assessment.
Photo: Illustrative picture from one of the projects supported by the Lithuanian NGO fund. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Lithuania.