Why was the programme needed?
The programme ‘Democracy and Human Rights’ represented a significant source of support for civil society represented by NGOs. The main objective of the programme was reduction of economic and social disparities and the development of bilateral cooperation between NGOs in Slovakia and NGOs as well as public/private sector entities in the donor countries.
NGOs to be seen as an important player was one of the challenges at the beginning of the programme - stronger and sustainable organization representing a significant player to state organization, helping to shape policies, bringing innovations and representing the public interest was the main need at the beginning of the programme. The programme was focused on enhancement of cooperation among the actors of civil society, public and private sector by supporting project partnerships on all levels and in all programme areas. The unifying element of the programme was development of NGO capacities and improvement of their position within society.
What did the programme achieve?
The basic set up of the programme was support of NGOs via institutional and regular grants within 3 open calls, smaller grants supporting mainly local initiatives, enhanced cooperation with donor countries supported via the bilateral fund, strategic support of NGOS through capacity building activities and complementary actions organized by the FO offering a wide range of innovative activities.
The programme supported 86 projects in four programme areas: democracy, good governance and transparency, human rights including minority rights, gender equality and gender-based violence and anti-discrimination. The programme also supported 28 initiatives under the bilateral fund.
The programme brought several interesting results. An area which had experienced a significant progress was the inclusion, designed as the horizontal priority of the programme. A number of projects focused on reducing economic and social disparities between non-Roma and Roma populations, education and desegregation in education in particular. New models, methodologies and guidelines to eliminate the segregation of Roma pupils in schools were designed and tested by NGO - EduRoma. They became an integral part of the public policy due to active engagement of the State School Inspectorate and State Methodological Centre.
Another palpable impact of the programme has been the public perception of corruption and transparency, which took dominant position when discussing the role of the state and its officials. The campaign “Personality of Judge - Key to Good Judiciary”- organized and conducted by NGO - Via Iuris provides a good example of involving the general public and efforts to bring more transparency into the process of judicial appointments in Slovakia. These examples proved that NGOs became partners to state institutions in designing policies in different areas as one of the key achievements of the programme implicitly contributing to the overall programme objective.
How were bilateral relations strengthened?
Shared knowledge, new perspectives of common challenges and built-up confidence of the Slovak NGOs participating in the bilateral cooperation projects have been the main benefits of the Bilateral Fund program. Especially for organizations working in the field of democracy, good governance, transparency and human rights, cooperation with Norwegian partners the program have yielded significant gains in obtained knowledge and confidence.
A special call for support of bilateral activities resulted in very useful cooperation among municipalities in Norway and municipalities in Slovakia, trying to deal with migrant crisis. The cooperation was conducted by the NGO, CVEK.
From among 28 bilateral projects, it is worth mentioning those, which have opened up new perspectives to a common challenge, such as the refugee crisis, integration and/or inclusion of new minorities in Slovakia – for example the conference ‘Muslims are…’ organised by OSF and CVEK working with municipalities/local governments exploring design of refugee integration programmes) or participatory process of urban design and planning (PUNKT and municipalities in Norway) and innovative educational approaches dealing with human and children rights (for example the international conference ‘Connected’ organised by OSF). Moreover, an independent and self-organized follow–up cooperation between Slovak and Norwegian/Icelandic entities indicates that there might be long term sustainability to these exchanges beyond the programming period.
What will be the impact of the programme?
A major impact of the programme will be a stronger capacity of NGOs in Slovakia. Stronger and sustainable NGOs were one of challenges at the beginning of the set-up of the programme. Institutional grants, the FO’s own capacity building activities were the main pillars of the capacity building activities of the programme. The follow-up online survey focusing on five areas: management and governance, financial sustainability, involvement of target group, partnership and publicity as well as bilateral cooperation.
Feedback from the grantees highlighted their improved focus and efficiency of their activities due to implementation of new methods for strategic planning, improved targeting of the audience for their work and services for their clients. The grantees´ operations became more sustainable, their public engagement and networking activities had improved significantly. Inquiry about their future capacity building activities indicated that the grantees plan to focus on stabilization of organization (financial and personnel), on improvement of services for their clients/target groups, and strengthen their capacity to engage with larger number of volunteers.