Annual Human Rights Conference: Panel Discussion “Access to Financing for Civil Society Organizations”

As the second part of the Annual Human Rights Conference, the Human Rights House Zagreb organized a panel discussion on the topic of access to financing for civil society organizations. The panel discussion was held on 17 December in online format and it was attended by about forty participants. The panel discussion was moderated by Ivan Novosel, director of programs of the Human Rights House.

Research report on the financing of civil society organizations was presented by Ivan Buljan, Head of Program and Development at the Human Rights House Zagreb. The research on access to financing was conducted during 2020 through an online questionnaire, interviews and focus groups on the topic of funding from the state budget, the EU Programs and ESI funds. Many obstacles and challenges faced by civil society organizations in Croatia have been identified. Research findings indicated the existence of a high level of distrust of the organizations involved in the research towards domestic donors – institutions that allocate funds from the state budget and ESI funds. The process of creating public policies is often carried out in a non-participatory manner, which leads to cases when civil society organizations cannot put certain social problems and needs on the agenda in order to make the contribution to solving them included in civil society funding programs.

Željka Leljak Gracin from the Friends of Earth Croatia emphasized the long-term problem of lack of trust between civil society and public institutions as one of the key obstacles to adequate partnership and cooperation, and thus to more flexible and efficient funding programs. The issue of distrust has been highlighted as a two-way problem which has deepened in recent years. She stated that numerous examples have confirmed the feeling of distrust of civil society organizations towards institutions. Environment protection and sustainable development organizations face a lack of funding for activities at the national level, which leads to reduction in the number and impact of work of environmental organizations throughout Croatia. In addition to environmental organizations, funding is also reduced for organizations focused on advocacy.

Đordana Barbarić from the MoST association pointed out the problem of non-recognition of certain problems in local communities as well as the problems of various social groups. Good projects and their results are often not recognized by local authorities and do not receive continued support. She pointed out that in Croatia there is a large number of organizations that contribute to reducing and combating poverty and social exclusion as well as that there is a good existing infrastructure. However, better connection, communication and cooperation are necessary for achieving stronger results in combating poverty and better responding to the needs of the local community. All panelists stressed the need of creating a partnership with public institutions, which was agreed to be the only way to build trust between the civil and public sectors in Croatia. This is a necessary prerequisite for responding effectively to certain social needs, problems and challenges.