Celebrating civil society
“I want to say NO to racial hate. I want to open the computer without being afraid of finding aggressive messages.”
This clear message was conveyed by Cristina Costea, a project manager for ‘Impreuna pentru Viitor Association’ –an NGO working on the integration of the Roma population – and one of the around 150 NGOs that participated in this year’s NGOFest held in Herăstrău Park in Romania's capital Bucharest last weekend. NGOs from Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Norway were among the participants at the festival.
The event was organised by the Romanian Civil Society Development Foundation and co-financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the Romanian NGO fund. At least 25 000 persons visited the event.
Taking a strong stance
Combating hate speech was the main theme of this year’s festival. Hate speech is a growing problem in Europe and can be found in statements from public figures, in the media and especially online, says Vera Ularu, coordinator at the Romanian Civil Society Development Foundation.
“A strong reaction to reject hate speech is essential and the NGOFest 2014 wants to part of this reaction ,” she explains.
In response, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are taking a strong stance against hate speech - using the EEA and Norway Grants as a tool both to raise awareness of the issue and its risks for democracy, as well as promote tolerance and multicultural awareness. Challenging intolerance and promoting democracy, fundamental rights and equality are values that sit squarely at the heart of the Grants.
The Grants support a range of initiatives to tackle hate speech online and offline in the various sectors receiving funding, particularly through civil society and the NGO programmes.