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The NHC has been commissioned by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be a contact point for the Active Citizens Fund.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee acts as a contact point for Norwegian organisations seeking cooperation under the EEA Grants’ Active Citizens Fund. 15 countries have been recipients of EEA grants, with EUR 200 million earmarked for the development of independent civil societies.
“These grants are a recognition of the civil sector’s role as a necessary building block of democratic governance, human rights and social cohesion in Europe,” says Senior Adviser Csilla Czimbalmos.
The grants are currently in a new program period for 2014-2021. They have resulted in over 200 projects in cooperation with Norwegian partners. One such is Changemaker, which successfully carried out a project with a Polish partner.
“For Changemaker such bilateral partnerships are first and foremost useful experience that can give us new perspectives on our work and at the same time spread our areas of work and expertise to other organisations. Therefore, it was an exciting opportunity for us to cooperate with the Polish organisation Centrum CSR”, says Embla Regine Mathisen, Leader of Changemaker.
Emphasis is given to building the capacity of the civil society sector to promote inclusion, democracy and active participation. In 2018 the new webpage for the Active Citizens Fund was redesigned and a new database was created for organizations to register and find partners.
The grants are important as human rights and democratic values are being held in contempt more and more throughout the world, and not only. We observe such aggravating tendencies among countries in the EU.
“We still have a fresh memory of the government-initiated attacks that the previous Active Citizens Fund operator in Hungary was subjected to in 2014. It was followed by smear campaigns and the delegitimization of all human rights organisations, which is still ongoing,” Czimbalmos says.
In 2018, we witnessed the introduction of a law criminalising organisations and members of organisations that provide support for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Hungary.
“Human rights defenders and defenders of liberal democratic values run an increasingly high risk for the work that they carry out. That is why support for civil society organisations is more important than ever before,” says Czimbalmos.