Lithuanian Civil Society welcomes NGO fund
Lithuanian non-governmental organisations have been eagerly awaiting the NGO programme under the EEA Grants. For many of them it represents a major opportunity to continue their activities or start new initiatives. For some NGOs it is the only opportunity for funding.
The launch event of the new fund for non-governmental organisations financed by the EEA Grants in Lithuania drew a crowd of 250 representatives from the civil society and other institutions to Vilnius on February 6.
According to Robertas Povilaitis, leader of Vaikų linija (“Child line”), an NGO that runs a helpline providing psychological and emotional support for children and teenagers, had it not been for the EEA Grants support during the previous financing period, his organization would have almost certainly had to close. Instead, they managed to increase the scope of activities. The new program for non-governmental organizations remains essential for ensuring that many organizations in Lithuania that perform vital functions, including services for those most vulnerable in the society, have a future.
Contribution to European civil society
The launch event was a joint event organized by the Norwegian embassy in Lithuania and the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, which serves as fund operator together with OSFL Projects. The conference was opened by Ambassador of Norway Leif Arne Ulland. Director Steinar Hagen from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave a presentation on EEA and Norway Grants and their contribution to the European civil society. During the course of the conference, participants received detailed information about the fund and heard insights of panelists representing some of the key Lithuanian NGOs, such as Children support Centre, the Lithuanian Gay League, and others, as well as Transparency International Lithuania and the Financial Mechanisms Office. The panel was followed by a discussion and questions from the audience.
One of few financing sources
The main objective of the 5.5 million euro NGO program in Lithuania is to strengthen civil society, contributing to social justice, democracy and sustainable development and strengthen bilateral relations with the donor countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Key priority areas are democracy and good governance, human rights, vulnerable groups and environment and climate change.
According to Birutė Sabatauskaitė from the Lithuanian Human Rights Centre, for Lithuanian human rights organizations, and particularly those working in the field advocacy, the program represents one of the very few financing sources. Due to this, many of the conference participants have been following the progress of the NGO programme and were enthusiastic about learning more about it.
Focus on partnerships
As a result of EEA Grants financed NGO funds in Europe, increased involvement of NGOs in policy and decision-making processes with local, regional and national governments is expected, as well as development of cross-sector partnerships. With this in mind, the NGO fund launch also focused on the theme of partnerships between the non-governmental and the public and private sectors. Speakers representing the NGO community, Lithuanian President’s Office, the Lithuanian parliament Seimas as well as the business community provided their perspective on the topic. The Norwegian NGO sector and experience in forming such partnerships was presented by Birgitte Brekke, the Secretary General of the Association of NGOs in Norway.
The first open call for proposals under the Lithuanian NGO fund will be announced on the 18th of March, 2013. Follow announcement of open calls on http://eeagrants.org/opencalls/search