New Funding Opportunities for NGOs

2013 02 06
New Funding Opportunities for NGOs

On 6 February, the NGO Programme Lithuania was launched in Vilnius by a conference attended by more than 200 participants. On 18 March, the first Open Call for Proposals will be announced. Lithuanian NGOs active in the fields of human rights, democracy, social justice and environment will benefit from new funding opportunities.

Representatives of Norwegian and Lithuanian state institutions, NGOs and business organisations took part the launch event. The role of NGOs in the policy-making processes, inter-sector cooperation and partnership as well as the definition of an NGO were among the subjects of presentations and discussion.

Mr Steinar Egil Hagen, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Deputy Director General responsible for EEA Grants, presented the Donors expectations of the Programme and highlighted the importance of human rights in NGO Programmes in all recipient countries including Lithuania. He emphasised the importance of tackling within the Programme such priority human rights issues as racism, extremism, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, equal opportunities, domestic violence (including gender-based violence) and human trafficking.

Ms Dovilė Šakalienė, the Director of the NGO Programme Lithuania and Interim Executive Director of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, stressed the fact that the important role of the NGO sector is still not properly acknowledged. The huge expert potential of NGOs could and should be used in policy and decision making processes, as well as for solving current human rights issues.

“There is yet no desire to understand what the NGO sector is about, what is its connection to human rights, what are human rights in general. Thus, naturally, Lithuania has no human rights policy, and people evacuate on a mass scale to countries with high human rights standards and strong NGO sectors,” stated Ms Šakalienė. “I believe we have a great opportunity to contribute to the development of an adequate cooperation mechanism, when the NGO sector would be accepted and valued for what it has – a high level of competence in areas important for State policies, as well as motivated, qualified, professional staff, independent experts who represent Lithuania well in international organisations. I hope that a suitable mechanism for supporting the NGO sector will be established, which would be transparent and effective, not infringing on the independence of theNGO sector.“

Member of Parliament Ms Dalia Kuodytė, who always cooperates actively with NGO experts in legislative pricess, including the highly relevant Law on Protection from Violence in Close Relations, supported Ms Šakalienė’s ideas and urged State institutions to openly cooperate with the NGO sector and to treat it fairly. Draft laws on assistance to NGOs will soon be considered in Lithuanian Parliament. MP expressed her expectations that these shall produce a break through in NGO definition and support schemes development. 

Ms Birgitte Brekke, Secretary General of the Association of NGOs in Norway, compared the situation of Norwegian and Lithuanian NGOs and shared the Norwegian experience of cooperation with state and business institutions. According to her, Norwegian NGOs are highly valued by the state sector and enjoy active support of the society, since NGO membership in Norway amounts to over ten million.

The Head of development and communications of the “Maisto bankas” (Food Bank) NGO Mr Vaidotas Ilgius put forward his perspective of NGO partnerships with state and business sectors, stressing the importance of NGO activeness and self-esteem. According to him, it is not fair to view NGOs as beggars with an extended hand. On the other hand, the NGO sector itself should adopt a different communication and partnership style.

The conference was greeted by the Norwegian ambassador to Lithuania H.E. Mr Leif Arne Ulland, the Chairman of the Board of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute Mr Dainius Pūras, and Adviser to the President of Lithuania Ms Gaja Bartusevičiūtė. The launch event ended with interventions by NGO experts and a general discussion which touched upon the most pressing concerns raised by the large audience. Among the participants of the final discussion were the Director of the Global Initiative in Psychiatry Ms Karilė Levickaitė, the Director of the Child Support Centre Ms Aušra Kurienė, the Head of the Lithuanian Gay League Mr Vladimir Simonko and the Head of the Transparency International Lithuanian chapter Mr Sergejus Muravjovas. A representative of the Financial Mechanisms Office Ms Patrizia Brandellero also contributed to the discussion.