Much has already been said and written about cooperation between Slovak non-profit organisations and the Slovak government. One sign of accomplishment in this area is the existence of the Slovak government's Council for NGOs, which serves as an advisory committee for both parties. Since April 2003, the Council has devoted its agenda to the integration of Slovakia into the European Union (EU) and to the question of support for Slovak NGOs from public resources. There have also been different levels of cooperation with some of the ministries - for example, the Ministry of Environment has cooperated with a number of NGOs working primarily in the area of implementing EU legislation regarding the protection of the environment while the Ministry of Culture has offered NGOs the opportunity to cooperate with it on developing state cultural policy, as well as a system for its financing.
Interview with Dr. Edvard Kobal.
Trust for Civil Society in Central & Eastern Europe
Based on desk research and informal consultations the Trust has developed a tentative framework for assistance to the Romanian civil society based on the following steps:
Trust for Civil Society in Central & Eastern Europe organized the 3rd Annual Trust Partners Meeting held on 3-4 June in Warsaw, Poland. The event was attended by representatives of the Trust Partner Organisations from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as guests from international donor organizations involved in Central and Eastern Europe. The goal of the meeting was to serve as a networking event to facilitate exchange of experience among the Trust Partner Organizations, as well as to provide first-hand information about the Trust programs and their implementation to international grant-makers.
Fifteen years ago, the communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe fell. In the exhilaration that followed, there was an outpouring of support from public and private sources - more than 60 North American and European foundations responded. Between l989 and l994, they provided over $450 million for civil society and democracy assistance programmes in the region (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia). However, by 1996 the first funders began to phase out their activities or to focus them further south or east, and they left a hole. A new concern surfaced: how could funders leave without endangering the work they had begun?
After over ten years of funding the redevelopment of civil society in Central Europe, most foreign donors are withdrawing. The decision is neither sudden nor surprising: NGOs in the region were aware of donors' intentions well in advance. Central Europe, and the Czech Republic in particular, is relatively wealthy and democracy well established, and other regions face more urgent problems. But challenges remain and the next few years will be crucial for the future of Central European NGOs. Is the sector equipped to survive the transition? Could donors have done more to prepare for their withdrawal? Might they have focused more on creating a climate in which civil society would prosper, rather than on individual projects?
When exiting a country, foreign donors inevitably create a vacuum in funding for certain types of organizations and certain areas of NGO work. Several contributors to this issue of Alliance emphasize that it is important for key donors to think strategically not just about the sustainability of their grantees but also of the civil society sector as a whole when planning an exit strategy.
Exit is inevitably less inspiring than entrance. When a foundation opens a new field office, launches a new programme or enters a new country, it's always a challenge and an opportunity. Conversely, when it closes the office, terminates the programme and leaves the country, it's a sad reminder that everything comes to an end. Of course, exit might also mean that the challenge was (hopefully) met and the mission accomplished. However, exit is often much more difficult to justify than entrance - there is always some unfinished business, some pressing need not responded to, a number of grantees left out in the cold.
Preceding the launch of activities in Romania, the Trust for Civil Society in Central & Eastern Europe decided to develop and run a consultative process among NGOs, and relevant donor and public administration agencies. The consultative process focused on the current and future needs and priorities for sustainable civil society development and the NGO sector in the three main working areas of the CEE Trust. The consultative process was open, transparent and available to all interested stakeholders. Over 50 civil society representatives participated in the consultation process.