Civil Society

Women sitting together at a hate free event


The Active Citizens Fund supports civil society by strengthening its role in promoting democratic participation, supporting active citizenship and protecting human rights.

The Challenge

A strong civil society is a fundamental building block in a vibrant, well-functioning democracy. Non-governmental organisations play a vital role in promoting democratic values and human rights, as well as fostering civic participation. They keep citizens engaged and often give voice to groups that would otherwise not have been heard in political decision-making processes. Civil society is a partner for governments as well as a watchdog.

However, in a number of European countries, civil society organisations are facing legal, financial and sometimes even physical threats. In some countries, legislation and negative rhetoric are being used systematically to target civil society and thus restrict freedom of opinion. Shrinking civic space in Europe in the past years makes it even more important to strengthen civil society’s capacity to address issues such as:

An icon representing Democracy


Active citizen participation in decision making is a fundamental part of democratic societies. Engaging the public through awareness raising, advocacy and social innovation is essential for addressing a broad range of issues, such as the environment and climate change.

A hand setting free a bird icon

Human rights

Discrimination, racism and harassment remains a challenge in Europe. In a recent EU wide survey, one in four respondents reported feeling discriminated against because of their ethnic or immigrant background. Fighting any discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation is crucial for making our societies equal for all. 

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Social justice

Minority groups often face obstacles in daily life; one in three Roma in Europe are unemployed and 90% live below national poverty lines. Empowering disadvantaged people and minority groups, and making sure their voices are heard is vital for improving the situation. Support for young people is particularly important.

A woman and a man with a symbol of equality between them icon

Gender equality

Despite progress in the last decades, gender equality has still not been reached in Europe. Women continue to be paid less than men and one in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence.  Countering gender inequality means standing up for human rights and ensuring that society reaches its full potential, both economically and socially. 

Our Approach

Our goal

We aim to strengthen civil society and active citizenship, and to empower vulnerable groups.


According to an agreement between Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and the EU,  10% of the EEA Grants are allocated to civil society through the Active Citizens Fund. In each country, the Fund is managed by operators which are independent of local, regional and central government, political parties and religious institution.

Common values of respect of human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the respect for human rights are at the core of all activities supported through the Fund. This includes initiatives such as:

  • Increase citizen participation in civic activities
  • Support consultation between public institutions and civil society organisations in decision making processes
  • Raise citizens awareness of human rights, including gender equality
  • Empower vulnerable groups
  • Create more effective, accountable and sustainable civil society organisations
  • Strengthen regional cooperation within civil society

Download the overview of our support to civil society to see the full list of suggested activities.

Selection of Fund Operators

The Financial Mechanism Office of the EEA and Norway Grants is now looking for Fund Operators to develop and implement the Active Citizens Funds in the beneficiary countries. The open tenders for the Fund Operator position are published continuously on this page.

Fund Operators currently contracted:

Bulgaria: Open Society Institute – Sofia in consortium with Trust for Social Achievement Foundation and Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation 

Active Citizens Fund in Bulgaria: Website

Active Citizens Fund in Bulgaria: Facebook page

Slovakia: Ekopolis Foundation in consortium with Carpathian Foundation and Open Society Foundation

Active Citizens Fund in Slovakia: Website

Active Citizens Fund in Slovakia: Facebook page

Portugal: Gulbenkian Foundation in consortium with Bissaya Barreto Foundation

Active Citizens Fund in Portugal: Website

Active Citizens Fund in Portugal: Facebook page

Greece: Bodossaki Foundation in consortium with Solidarity Now

Active Citizens Fund in Greece: Website

Active Citizens Fund in Greece: Facebook page

Estonia: Open Estonia Foundation in consortium with Network of Estonian Non-profit Organisations

Malta: Solidarity Overseas Service Malta

Active Citizens Fund in Malta: Website