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Frontpage News 2019 Programme implementation agreement signed for the Active Citizens Fund in Bulgaria

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Photo: Open Society Institute

Programme implementation agreement signed for the Active Citizens Fund in Bulgaria

The programme implementation agreement for the Active Citizens Fund in Bulgaria was signed on 16 May 2018.

Key information about the programme
The programme is operated by: Open Society Institute - Sofia (lead) in in consortium with the Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation and the Trust for Social Achievement Foundation 
The programme's objective is: Civil society and active citizenship strengthened and vulnerable groups empowered 
The programme funding amounts to €15.5 million and is entirely funded through the EEA Grants. 

Why is the programme needed? 

The Active Citizens Fund in Bulgaria reflects a firm recognition of the civil society sector’s role as a fundamental building block of democratic governance, human rights and social cohesion.  Civil society organisations (CSOs) mobilise participation in civic life, and play a key role in promoting active citizen engagement in decision-making at local, national and European levels. CSOs tackle social problems arising from inequality and discrimination. They contribute to the activation and empowerment of disadvantaged people and minority groups, by helping them overcome barriers to participation and ensure that their voices are heard. 

While the Bulgarian civil society sector is an important driver of societal change and public mobilization, a key obstacle for individual CSOs and the sector overall is a shortage of sustainable and diverse funding sources. This is particularly challenging for CSOs engaged in advocacy and monitoring activities in the areas of good governance and human rights. While the sector is relatively diverse, a majority of registered CSOs operate in the capital and other large urban centres, to the detriment of smaller and rural geographical areas. Further challenges related to CSO capacity, notably lacking PR and media know-how, legal expertise, organizational capacity and fundraising skills, limit the sustainability of CSOs’ activities as well as their ability to monitor and influence policy-making and implementation.

What will the programme achieve and who are the beneficiaries?  

The programme will provide funding opportunities allowing CSOs in Bulgaria to contribute to a strengthened democratic culture and civic awareness, defend human rights, promote equal treatment, and work on solutions for the benefit of vulnerable groups. The Fund Operator will undertake extensive measures to ensure outreach to under-served areas and target groups, including in the form of hands-on coaching and mentoring to less experienced CSOs and those active in regions with a high concentration of vulnerable groups. The programme’s three pre-defined projects (on mentorship and coaching of scholarship recipients; capacity development of Roma and pro-Roma CSOs; and leadership skills among young CSO managers) will contribute to building the capacity of CSOs and the sector, in conjunction with further support activities undertaken by the Fund Operator. Particular emphasis throughout the programme is put on the civic engagement of youth, and Roma empowerment and inclusion. Support to asylum seekers and refugees will be provided, including in the form of legal aid and counselling services for victims of discrimination and human rights violations.  

The Active Citizens Fund in Bulgaria covers the following five areas of support: (1) Democracy, active citizenship, good governance and transparency; (2) Human rights and equal treatment through combating any discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender identity; (3) Social justice and inclusion of vulnerable groups; (4) Gender equality and gender-based violence; and (5) Environment and climate change.

How will the programme strengthen bilateral relations?  

The programme will contribute to strengthening bilateral relations between CSOs and other entities in Bulgaria and in the Donor States, in line with the overall objectives of the Grants. Bilateral cooperation shall be mutually beneficial, based on a strategic and long-term perspective, and leveraging the respective strengths of entities in the Donor States and in Bulgaria. Donor partnership projects will be facilitated through matchmaking events and activities in conjunction with the launch of calls for proposals and encouraged in call texts. 

Availability of funding through open calls 

In addition to three pre-defined projects, the funding in this programme will be made available through the following open calls: 

  • Call 1: Rolling call for small initiatives – Q4 2018 to Q3 2023 
  • Call 2: Call for the development of bilateral project ideas (‘Seed Money Facility’) – Q3 2018 (closed)  
  • Call 3: Call for the Roma Scholarship Programme – start Q3 2018, annual calls thereafter 
  • Call 4: Call for strategic projects – Q4 2018 (closed) 
  • Call 5: Call for strategic projects – Q3 2020 
  • A separate, ongoing call for small bilateral initiatives will be open from Q3 2019

Precise timing of calls may be subject to change.  

More information can also be found on the Fund Operator’s website.